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University uncovers archives of matriarch of Irish food

Myrtle Allen

The archives of the woman dubbed the matriarch of modern Irish cuisine has been acquired by the University of Cork. The university has acquired the Myrtle Allen Archive of papers and established an annual Memorial Lecture in honour of the matriarch of modern Irish cuisine. Spanning more than 100 years, the Myrtle Allen Archive is a treasure trove of insight into the first Irish woman to receive a Michelin star and who is credited with leading a revolution that promoted the amazing possibilities in Irish food.

Myrtle, who died in June 2018 at the age of 94, is widely recognised for her contribution to establishing Cork and Ireland as a home of wholesome, sustainable food. Her culinary philosophy was based on the primacy of using only the very best of local, seasonal, Irish produce, grown and harvested or even foraged sustainably.

The archive includes journals from the restaurant, daily menus, inherited hand-written family manuscript recipe books, correspondence with producers and chefs, restaurant and hotel reviews, and scrapbooks of traditional recipes sent to her by readers of the Irish Farmers Journal. There are letters of advice to fledgling chefs, drafts and proofs of her 1977 book, The Ballymaloe Cookbook, and photographs and files that reflect her interest in history, local history, genealogy and travel.