… the houses look like this:
‘Tis grand, you know what I mean, like?
When Sean was growing up, the prize for finishing all of his dinner was a cookie. Now Sean is a adult and he can have 10 cookies if he wants, any time of the day. He often does.
Sean loves cookies. He brings home a new package every week to savor while we have our tea. I’m always excited to see what he’s bought, since so many of the brands are unfamiliar to me.
Once, we had Mikados:
Mikados are shortbread biscuits layered with jam, coconut, sugar, and pink gobs of Peep-like marshmallow. They taste about as great as they sound.
Another time, we had crispy chocolate covered digestives:
Though I can’t vouch for any improvements in my digestion, they were terrific.
In the past few weeks, we’ve had tiny packaged apple pies that need to be baked in the oven, Kinder Surprise eggs, shortbread cookies, and arguments in the snack aisle because Sean has always believed that Nabisco, Kellogg’s, and Cadbury are Irish brands.
This week, we have Penguins:
Crunchy, creamy and chocolatey all at once – Penguins are most excellent cookies. As if “delicious” and “named after a lovable creature” weren’t enough, the folks at Penguin decided to add a whole new dimension of awesome to their product by printing penguin-themed jokes on their wrappers. Every time Sean eats Penguins, he makes sure to quiz me. Who knew how much fun a pair of adults could have with a handful of cookies?
Sean: What’s black and white, black and white, black and white, black and white?
Liv: My newspaper as I whip you for asking, “Do ye have Pringles in America?”
Sean: Wrong! It’s a penguin rolling down a hill.
Sean: Okay, finished that biscuit. Let’s try again. Why don’t Polar Bears eat penguins?
Liv: Because Polar Bears and penguins aren’t eligible for frequent flier miles.
Sean: No! They can’t get the wrappers off.
Liv: Seriously? What, did someone at the Penguin joke think tank skip lunch or something?
Sean: Give me another biscuit. Yum. Who is a Penguin’s favorite aunt?
Liv: Ice Flo. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ….!! Oh, wait, you said “favorite.”
Sean: A penguin’s favorite aunt is Aunt-Arctica.
Liv: Oh, man. Okay, enough with the penguin jokes … I think I’m … NUMB with boredom. A ha ha ha ha ha ha …!
Sean: Why are you laughing?
Liv: Get it? “Numb”? Like from the cold?
Sean: Ha. Ha.
Liv: *I* should work for Penguin cookies. I’m hilarious!
Sean: Penguin biscuits.
Who knows what our next shopping trip will bring?
This post has been brought to you by Wanderfood Wednesday.
We’ve carved out a schedule of sorts these days. I’m in class 3 days a week, put in time for the two travel magazines I work for, and write about 20 hours for myself and for school. I cook dinner 5 nights; Monday is pasta, Tuesday is chicken, Wednesday is Hump Day Wild Card, Thursday is fish and Friday is International Surprise (!). Saturday is the day we clean the apartment and the night we try out a Dublin restaurant. Finally, Sunday is “trad night,” when we enjoy some traditional culinary delights. Sunday has been dubbed “trad night” due to convenience because Sunday is also known as “day trip time” around these here parts. When you’re visiting a famous Irish spot, you tend to want something potato-ey for dinner. Three Sundays ago, we took the bus down to the old fishing village of Howth:
Moody gray Irish coastline
“Now don’t you be whingeing about food again, Mary; you’re just after having had some seafood chowder at the pub.”
The Irish Sea
Fish is life.
The Bloody Stream – a lovely pub, purportedly built upon the site of a 12th century battle during the Norman Conquest of Ireland. There, I enjoyed a pot of fine mussels alive alive-o and some of the best seafood chowder I’ve ever tasted; piping hot, brewed with savory salmon and dill. Afterwards, a stroll past the boutiques and tugboats while enjoying vanilla ice cream cones before the bus ride home.
Last Sunday, we took the 44 Bus to Powerscourt; a stunning heritage property located among the famed Wicklow Mountains in the small village of Enniskerry. Powerscourt began its life as a 13th century Anglo-Norman castle in possession of the le Poer family. Through the centuries, it’s been held by several other powerful British and Irish families. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, a succession of whimsical castle extensions and fantastic gardens were built. This particular day trip was just perfect to get me in the mood for Part 3 of the BBC’s Emma miniseries, premiering that night.
Walking to Powerscourt from Enniskerry
The entrance to Powerscourt
A long, leisurely walk through the countryside to the manor
Lovely manor amid the Irish countryside. Galloping horses and lords not included.
Entering the manor
In the Italian Gardens
“Oh, Mr. Churchill, we must have ourselves a ball!”
“Mr. Elton, why do you not ride with Harriet? She would ever so enjoy your company.”
“Emma, dear, fancy an excursion to Box Hill? The weather is most fine!”
P.S. Emma Part 3 was excellent.
Had my camera battery not died, there would have also been pictures of the Japanese garden and its beautiful technicolor momiji, the azalea and rhododendron garden, and the delicious pie-rific trad dinner of Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken and Mushroom Pie, and Apple Pie we shared back in Enniskerry at a charming cafe.
Next week: down to Cork to visit Sean’s family. Perhaps a trip to Blarney Castle is in order, if Sean can overcome his terror of being mistaken for a tourist.
My friend Sean’s grandfather is a hale and hearty 80 years old. He talks politics, walks upright, drives at night, and makes his own jam from the fruits and berries in his garden. He serves that homemade jam with his homemade bread when he sits us down for tea. What an absolutely lovely man. We saw him recently when we went down to Cork a few weeks ago for Sean’s brother’s college graduation. Sean’s great aunt – also in her 80s – arrived to dinner; stooped and pushing a walker. Sean’s grandad carried the walker for her while someone else helped her down the stairs.
It must feel great, I think, to be 80 and helping out other folks your own age.
“Ah,” says Sean. “But he keeps himself well. He never drinks. He eats fish all the time.”
And, Sean adds, his Grandad eats Flahavan’s porridge every morning.
“Hold on,” I said. “Porridge?” I imagined Sean’s grandfather woken up by a cruel schoolmaster’s whip at 5 every morning, before being flung into a dining hall full of screaming street urchins for a breakfast of pale, watery slop.
“Of course,” Sean says. “Porridge. Don’t ye have it in America?”
“No. We’re a first world country.”
“Backwards, the lot of ye.”
Later, we’re shopping for groceries and we’re in the grain aisle.
“Look,” Sean says. He points to a square bag emblazoned with the words Flahavan’s and a picture of a bowl of what looks like nice, healthy oatmeal. “That’s what my grandad eats.”
Porridge is oatmeal?
Well, more or less – the former (popular in the UK and Ireland) is made from steel cut oats whereas the latter (traditional in America and Canada) is made from rolled oats but the end result of both oat treatments is hot cereal. Two words for hot oaten cereal, such powerfully different connotations … at least for me; an American who’d mostly heard the word “porridge” linked with Dickensian urchins. There was that Goldielocks kid, I suppose, but I always figured the moral of that story was that greediness = bad, especially if you’re so greedy you meet your end because you can’t even resist orphan food.
Often, British-English words seem fancy to Americans – a cookie is something we cram in our mouths by handfuls after a break up but a biscuit is something we’d have with high tea … if biscuits weren’t delicious handfuls of buttery fluff eaten with fried chicken, that is. You’d buy garbage bags at a store and artisan candy at a shop. But when it comes to those British-English words that sound so fine to us, porridge is one notable exception.
It’s warm, it’s cozy, it’s a fuel rocket in the stomach. A 19th century New England Fisherman might eat it on a cold, blustery morning before whaling. Thar she be, lads – sup ye hearty afore the sky be red. Quakers ate it to pump themselves up for long days of quilting and fluffing oatstalks with a pitch fork. That be good, sister Prudence. Thank thee, brother Essence. That’s nutrition. That’s oatmeal.
Porridge is what you eat when you’re poor, when the nuns have given you to the foundry. You’ll see he has a bit of cheek in him, Mr. S____. And his parents – poor as church mice and dead of the consumption. See that he minds you; feel free to give him the strap or box his ears if he doesn’t.
The Quaker versus the Urchin – for me, oatmeal wins every time.
“You should eat more porridge,” says Sean. “It’s good for you. Just look at my grandad.”
He’s right. I should eat more oatmeal, even if I always want it to taste like grits so I can put Tabasco on it. High cholesterol runs in my family and it wouldn’t hurt me to have oats instead of cake once in a while.
“I’ll buy us a bag, so,” he says. “We’ll have it for breakfast.”
Sean is making some for us right now. He’s brewing it on the stove, thick with low-fat milk. I’ve got my little bowl in hand and hope he’ll give me seconds.
We live in an old Victorian home. The home’s old bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, etc have been quartered off to form apartments. The entrance of the home is as it was back in its hey day – a carpeted foyer leading to a long, winding up staircase with sturdy white banisters. In front of the staircase is a wooden drawing table, under a gilt-framed mirror. There is a basket on the table. That is where all of the residents of the building receive their mail.
I’ve been rifling through this basket for the past two weeks, looking for anything sent to me. In doing so, I can’t help but learn the names of my neighbors. There are about 10 of us as far as I can tell; a mix of Polish, me, and Irish. Such lovely, lyrical Irish names there are, the surnames starting with “O”s, the given names sprinkled with double consonants, strings of vowels, and unfamiliar dipthongs like”mh” and “bh”. I want to say them out loud – names like poetry themselves – but worry that if I do, I’ll pronounce them badly and be laughed at by Sean or, worse, be caught mumbling them like a prayer just as someone else comes to get their mail.
“Hi, is it Aoife at Number 10?” they might say. “I’m Seoirse at Number 11. I’ve been meaning to tell you that I like your morning music mix.”
The morning music coming from Number 10 would have been Celine Dion and James Blunt so there was no way I could possibly pretend to be Aoife. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I’m not her.”
“But you’re holding her ESB bill.”
“Oh, that. Ha ha. I thought it was mine. Darn dim lighting! Can’t see a thing.”
“Ah. Is it Aine at Number 8, then?”
“Er, no, I’m not.”
“Oh. Which one is it, then?”
“I’m Liv at Number 15.”
“Liv at Number 15?”
“And you thought Aoife’s ESB bill was yours?”
I’m Liv – nice to meet you. But you can call me Snoopy.
Only a couple of weeks in our new neighborhood and already I’m making friends.
Patch was my first neighborhood buddy. I met him outside his apartment building, where he was relaxing on the steps. He made the first move, leaping up from his roost to snuggle himself against my legs. Purr, purr, purr. Nuzzle, nuzzle, nuzzle. I call him Patch ’cause he only got one eye, like a pirate. Every time I pass his house, he ambles over to say meow do you do? Sometimes, he walks home with me to give us a little more time to catch up. We always part ways happily, knowing that we will soon see each other again.
Sean does not like Patch.
“Don’t you go getting attached to these dirty street cats!” he warns. “They’ll bite you.”
“Not Patch! He never would. We’re friends. And he’s not dirty; he lives at Number 15.”
“How do you know that?”
“He’s always there and he has a collar with a bell on it.”
“He could still bite you.”
Personally, I think Sean’s just jealous that there’s a new man in my life. He also happens to be jealous of Patch’s friends who haven’t quite accepted me yet. I see them convening on the steps of Patch’s house with him, Jellicle Cats come out tonight. Every once in a while one of them eyes me with interest, only to streak into a backyard as I approach. I am, however, making some good headway with a beautiful gray kitten I see lounging outside of Number 25. She sniffs my hand and appears playful. Just the other day, she crossed her yard to say hello to me, just as Patch does. I call her Cleo.
Sean and I walk down our street and I wave to my friends.
“Hey, Patch,” I say. “Hi there, Cleo. What’s going on?”
“Stop getting attached to these cats,” says Sean. “It’ll only make it harder on you when you leave.”
He just doesn’t understand.
Q: How do you make a Grafton Street living statue move?
a) Tickle him
b) Stick a pin in him
c) Shout into his ear
d) Attempt to film the pigeon who has roosted on his shoulder and begun eating out of his pipe
I’m sorry, statue man. I wasn’t trying to make you ruin the effects of your performance; I just thought the pigeon on your shoulder was really cool and didn’t think you’d mind.
October 2, 2009 in dublin
It’s an exciting time to be in Ireland – native, tourist, or foreigner. It’s a time of debate, a time of political discontent; it’s the second time the Lisbon Treaty has been offered to the Irish public. I’d read a bit about it in various blogs before arriving, but once I stepped out of the airport, the multitudes of Vote Yes! Vote Nil! signs threatened to block out the emerald green foliage. The same smug, black-and-white man and woman on the Yes! posters follow me home from City Centre every day, and I can’t help but overhear bits of arguments about it over dinners. Some are angry that it’s the same thing brought to the table again as though the “No” decision meant nothing. Some say, “Europe – why not?”
As a non-Irishperson, whether to vote Yes or Nil is none of my business: I’m more fascinated in the sociopolitical climate that sets the scene for my early days in Ireland. I’m interested in the movie preview ads stating just what the EU does for Ireland. I’m gazing at the fascinating crop of graffiti on the posters plastered all over town. Sean’s relatives – who he’s told me are non-political – discuss it freely over graduation dinners and I cock an ear, nosy to hear who thinks what.
It’s not my business, but I suppose I’m allowed to say that there seems to be a lot of hype and propaganda on both sides; buzz phrases aimed at the emotional but uninformed. Just when I thought the American political parties had the monopoly on that kind of thing.
Today is finally Voting Day. Sean has gone down to Cork to vote – his first time. I, a non-Irishperson, am very interested in knowing what happens.