In a time of online banking, the ‘Bank Holiday’ is a quaint, but very welcome, little anachronism. As a child, the bank holiday held a special delight as it was a much better day off school than the dreaded ‘Holy Day of Obligation’. How could that be a good thing, all that obligation to cope with? Nowadays the only thing obligatory is getting out of Dodge before the traffic and packing both wellies and sun cream. Prayers may be offered for a little chink of sun.
The August Bank Holiday was traditionally when we took our summer holiday as a family, all bailed into the car for the long trek to Donegal. Somewhere around the border, we stopped for a picnic - a visit to a hotel deemed too stressful for my parents, unable to control their cooped-up chizzlers. Just like online banking, along came food trucks. Not your chip van, now, but guide-book-worthy emporia which dot the meandering roads of Ireland. What a dream that would have been, instead of sandwiches packed in Arklow after being sat on all the way to Monaghan. And, no, no cool bags either.
I’m afraid I have inflicted the same holiday memories on my own children. Long car journeys, this time from Cork to Donegal, even worse, and endless rounds of ‘I Spy’. As with my own childhood experience, it was always worth it when the cousins met and car cramps were loosened by a jump in the sea.
Of course, a nice drop of wine was also part of the packing. I don’t believe in taking a chance with the local petrol station. I have gorgeous memories of my sister and me, kids clamouring around the table to gobble up spag bol, not wasting any play time, while we clinked a nice glass above their heads. Whatever simple fare was for dinner, the wine was always our treat.
The culinary offerings of every part of this island have improved enormously in the last 25 years, and now, holiday eating can be joyful and stress-free. Tasty snacks from the farmers' market and feasts from food trucks or local restaurants give an added boost to our holiday home eating. All the more reason to have good wine to match.
This case reflects another welcome trend, actually a few trends - Pet-Nat and light reds - along with some Rosé to channel the sun, whether it’s in the sky or not. Drinking a slightly chilled red is the perfect compromise on days when the sun is trying hard but not quite making it through the clouds. A nice selection of local cheese is all you need for a wrapped-up beach picnic, or a pink Pet-Nat with scampi and chips if you’re lucky enough to pull up near one of those fabulous trucks.
Bringing it right back to basics, one of my favourite beach treats, which the kids love as much as the adults, is a pot of potatoes, cooked in seawater over a wood fire. Plenty of butter is all you need, they’re already salted from the brine. I first heard about this from Myrtle Allen at the Ballymaloe Litfest, and it has become one of our favourite summer traditions. You have the warmth and sparkle of the fire, the drama of crashing waves, just add the gentle softness of Jean-Paul Brun’s Brouilly, to make it - as Mrs. Allen described it - ‘the spud of your life’.