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Turkeys, pineapples and artichokes - researchers want to know what Irish people ate hundreds of years ago

Funding has been approved.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

A EUROPEAN RESEARCH board has awarded €1.5 million for the study of what Irish people ate in the 16th and 17th century.

The funding has been committed by the European Research Council and the five-year project will be led by Dr Susan Flavin of Anglia Ruskin University.

The researchers say the 16th and 17th centuries witnessed significant changes with the introduction of foreign foods – such as turkeys, pineapples and artichokes – to the dining tables of the elite. However, the project aims to discover what was eaten at all levels of Irish society.

Dr Flavin, Senior Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University and author of Consumption and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Ireland, said: “Ireland presents a unique case study for understanding the dynamic role of food and drink in a society undergoing political and cultural change.

“There is a perception that Ireland remained isolated from the major dietary changes that occurred across early modern Europe, but my research suggests a much more complex and integrated picture.

“Trade was booming in 16th century Ireland, there was colonisation and immigration from England, Scotland, Wales, France and the Netherlands, and there is evidence that certain global tastes filtered into the country.

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“Foreign luxuries like sugar, turkeys, pineapples and artichokes found their way into the homes of the elite. We also know that at the lower levels of society the European fashion for hopped beer, and with it continental drinking rituals, was embraced by both men and women. At the same time, new ways of ‘civilised’ eating and drinking were accepted, even among some in the lower classes of society.”

Written records of consumption from this period, however, focus mainly on Ireland’s wealthy households and offer fewer details of the average diet.

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