Tuam Market brings producers face to face with consumers

COMRADES in good food promotion: Dorene Allen McManus and Graham Roberts pictured at Tuam Market on Saturday May 31.

ONE of the advantages of the traditional food market is that it brings the producer and the consumer face to face, with no middle-man. But what happens when the producer operates beside the sea, and the market is in Tuam? No bother, says Dorene Allen McManus, leading light of the Tuam monthly market. She can persuade the producer to show up and meet the public. On the last Saturday in May, Graham Roberts of the Connemara Smokehouse near Ballyconneely came to Tuam to meet some of the customers and talk about his products.
He is the second generation of his family to operate the smokehouse, and as viewers of Nationwide on RTE 1 last week may have heard, he has been working there since he was four years old.
That was when he got a penny a box for washing out fish boxes — doubtless under the loving and watchful eye of his father John, who started the business.
When Irish people think of smoked fish, smoked salmon springs first to mind. And indeed Graham smokes three kinds of salmon — wild, organic and farmed.
But he has developed new products also, particularly honey roast smoked tuna. A pack of this came my way at the market, and went down very well. It is absolutely delicious, with a subtle blend of smokiness and sweetness that is very more-ish.
There is also smoked mackerel, both plain and peppered, smoked cod and kippers, as well as several varieties of smoked salmon.
Wild salmon is the most expensive, due to its rarity, but organic farmed salmon comes a close second in quality, according to Graham.
It is reared several kilometres out to sea, in huge cages with only two fish per ton of water, so the fish have plenty of room in which to swim, building good muscle tone. The feed is also of very high quality, and organic certified.
“He’s a mini-celebrity in France, you know,” Dorene told me, and true enough, several French publications have run articles on his smokehouse and it is very popular among French visitors to Connemara who turn past Keogh’s Pub and take the narrow road down to Bunowen Pier.
The company, which employs eight people full time, exports all over the world, with France as one of its biggest markets. Irish people are overcoming their traditional aversion to fish, partly because of its proven health benefits. So if you’d like to sample a local product that is both delicious and good for you, look out for it at the next Tuam Market at the end of the month.

DAVID BURKE, Tuam Herald, 12th June 2008