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British food critic comes unstuck on visit to Granard

British author James Crowden during his recent visit to Granard.

British author James Crowden during his recent visit to Granard.

A well-known British food and drink critic was left red-faced by Dublin Airport security this week when three pots of homemade jam he purchased from a north Longford country market were confiscated from his hand luggage.

Award-winning writer, James Crowden said he was still bewildered from the ordeal especially after Bord Bia officials invited him to Ireland in an attempt to kick-start domestic based food produce.

“That’s the surprising thing about it,” chuckled a more than amused Mr Crowden. “I was asked to do a talk on cider and the fact it (jars) were nicked off me three hours later in Dublin Airport is slightly ironic.”

The Somerset-based expert was in Granard along with his good friend Patrick Quigley the week before Christmas as he looked to further his ancestral heritage which was formerly the home of his great, great, great grandfather Denis Cowden.

After sipping on a cup of coffee inside the Greville Arms Hotel, Mr Cowden snapped up three jars of jam from Ardagh-based producer Alan Harrison.

They had been purchased as a present to his father, who according to Mr Cowden is no stranger to trying his hand at jam-making.

Plainly annoyed by what unfolded in Dublin Airport, the food critic contacted Dublin-based solicitor Pol O’Murchu who took little time in dispatching a letter to the Irish Times, asking for the jam to be returned.

Writing in the national broadsheet, Mr O’Murchu said: “His (Mr Cowden’s) hand luggage was searched and the three jars of jam were confiscated. He was given no reason other than that they were in the wrong shaped jar. The jar should have been 100ml. The jam was not tested and neither was a receipt given for the jam. The jam was perfectly solid and was not a liquid.”

In an angry response, customs officials defended their actions, saying Mr Cowden should have been more aware of the safety protocol that was now in place at Dublin Airport.

“Perhaps, if an t-Uasal Ó Murchú’s travelling friend had paid more attention to the security precautions as outlined on Dublin Airport’s excellent website and in the many airport public notices, he would have saved himself the embarrassment of having his jam confiscated. All the travelling public need to observe these precautions which are there for the safety of all,” a strongly-worded reply pointed out.

For Mr Cowden, however, the incident is one which has not dented his plans to re-visit his ancestral home and sample some of the delights currently being offered by the popular north Longford based market.

“Not at all, I will be back in shot,” he swiftly replied. As for those who confiscated the jams, Mr Cowden was more virulent in his final appraisal.

“It’s not a Dublin problem this, it’s an EU problem, but if they (jars) had explosives written on them I might have understood it. The funny thing is they (customs) can confiscate jam and then moments later you are sent into the duty free area, confronted by thousands of bottles of whiskey and spirits which, don’t get me wrong, is a far more dangerous weapon than any jar of jam,” he added.

 

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