The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE - JP McMA­HON

Due to the de­feat of Gareth of the Goats by Niall of the Nine Hostages, the con­sump­tion of goat meat was out­lawed in Ire­land from the fifth cen­tury on­wards.

Of course, this is non­sense, but I do won­der why we don’t have a his­tory of eat­ing goat meat in Ire­land. Though goat’s milk plays a cen­tral role in the pro­duc­tion of some of our best farm­house cheeses, goat meat is nowhere to be found. That is, un­til re­cently.

New goat farm­ers are pop­ping up all over the coun­try, from Gal­way to West­meath. Can goat meat save us? Sev­eral re­cent ar­ti­cles sug­gest goat is the new lamb, and its con­sump­tion is more sus­tain­able than any other meat. This is be­cause we all eat goat’s cheese. And what do you think hap­pens to all the males? If you eat goat’s cheese, you should, ac­cord­ing to food writer Felic­ity Cloake in the Guardian ( April 9th, 2018), eat goat’s meat. It’s an eth­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity. But this re­turns me to my ini­tial thought: why didn’t we farm goat for meat in Ire­land? Of course, there is the pos­si­bil­ity that we did. Sheep and goat bones are dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish be­tween, so early ar­chae­ol­ogy of Ire­land ac­knowl­edges we may have eaten goats ( as well as drink­ing their milk). Goats were the first do­mes­ti­cated meat and I can’t imag­ine Ne­olithic farm­ers only milk­ing their goats.

Is it about re­li­gion? Pop­u­lar Chris­tian folk tra­di­tion in Eu­rope as­so­ci­ated Sa­tan with im­agery of goats. A com­mon su­per­sti­tion in the Mid­dle Ages was that goats whis­pered lewd sen­tences in the ears of the saints. The brats!

It was Arab mer­chants who brought goat to Spain along with spices, cit­rus fruits and nuts. Did Catholi­cism cor­ner the lamb mar­ket in the same way Arab Mus­lims cel­e­brated the cook­ing of goat meat? Does this ex­plain it?

What­ever the his­tory, superstitions and cul­tural habits, we have a chance now to turn things around and em­brace goat’s meat. Any­thing you do with lamb, you can do with goat: stew, fry, braise, roast and curry. So get out there and find your­self some goat meat. I like it with seaweed.

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