Archive for March, 2010

Fresh salmon the way it should be served!

Here’s a recap of a conversation I had last night with one of my Irish friends last night:

Me: “I’m going to have a dinner party soon…what should I make?”

Friend: “Don’t make fish. I don’t like it.”

Me: “But you eat fish and chips, right?”

Friend: “Yes, but it’s fried. I don’t like fish unless it’s fried.”

Me: “Have you ever tried it not fried?”

Friend: “No, because I don’t like it.”

After a few more back-and-forths, it was determined that my friend has never eaten fish in any other form but fried, yet is adamant that he hates it. How does he know he doesn’t like something he’s never tried?

Strangely enough, we live in a fishing town and there is a wide selection of fresh, beautiful fish available at every grocery store in town. There are also several fishmongers who sell seafood that’s literally been caught that day. But from what I’ve observed so far, most people I know here not only prefer the fried variety, they actually like fish that’s had the shit cooked out of it – the complete opposite of what any fishmonger would recommend in regards to preparing fish.



Me, just after waking up. I know you are sooo attracted to me right now!

Ever since I moved to Ireland, my hair has been less than cooperative. Gone are the soft, touchable locks of my LA days; here my hair is unmanageable and constantly tangled.

The reason is the hard water that is prevalent throughout Ireland. According to this map, I live in an area with “moderately hard” water (I can just imagine those poor folk who live in the “hard” areas!). For pipes this means lime scale buildup. For hair, it means disaster. The water here makes my hair very sticky, and by that I don’t mean sticky like honey or melted marshmallows. The best way to explain it is by comparing it to spaghetti. When you first drain cooked spaghetti, it’s loose and easy to toss with a fork. But if you let it sit in a bowl for five minutes or more, it starts sticking together. If you stick a fork in it, you’ll get clumps of spaghetti instead of nice, individual strands. My hair = five-minute old spaghetti. Fork = my hairbrush.

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Food should be colorful and inviting

Grocery shopping in a new country is always a treat for me. I honestly believe that the food and eating habits of a country reveal insights into its culture and people. So far in Ireland, I’ve managed to shop at Tesco, the large UK-based grocery chain; Dunnes and SuperValu, both Irish-owned companies; and Aldi, a German grocery chain.

Drogheda Farmers’ Market – my lifesaver!

If I had to summarize the Irish based solely on what I’ve found at their food shops, here is verdict: They love beige and yellow food. By this I mean breads, cakes, crackers, cookies, potatoes and various breaded and fried proteins. In fact, about 75% of the frozen food sections at all of the aforementioned grocery stores is comprised of breaded chicken (sticks, fingers, patties) and breaded fish (same as the chicken). They love them some chicken nuggets, so they do. You can buy them in the form of smiley face circles, chunky chunks and even “Southern Fried,” which, by the looks of it, would make Colonel Sanders roll over in his grave.  

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In Ireland, these cookies are “biscuits.”

The other day, my friend Sinead was telling me about a peculiar town in England that we need to go visit. She said it was a small community full of very strange people.

“They have no teets!” she said.

What???  No teets!? I imagined a town of nipple-less women, walking down the street in slow motion like zombies in a horror film. Was there something in the water that caused this deformity?  How did they feed their newborn babies?  I surmised that bra sales in this region must be low, perhaps even non-existent.

“Why don’t they have breasts?” I asked, still trying to wrap my brain around this bizarre phenomenon.

“What? No, they have no TEET!” she said again, pointing to her mouth. 

Ohhhhhh. Teeth. Right.



It’s easy to forget who you are when you first move to a new place. Before I moved to Ireland, I had been living in the same apartment in Los Angeles for over three years, and had settled into a relaxed but fairly regular routine. If I were to speak about myself in the third person, a la a voiceover description of a character in a film, it would go something like this:

Clare wakes up without an alarm clock at around 8 a.m. every morning, unless it’s a Saturday or Sunday as she would have been out with her friends trying a new restaurant or lounge which meant a few several glasses of wine that night and a bit of a headache the next day. She works from home, often in her pajamas, though lately she’s been making an effort to ready herself in the morning like every other working person she knows. In the shower, she always shampoos first, then conditions her hair, and soaps up while the conditioner sits in her hair. After rinsing the soap and conditioner off, she washes her face. She always saves the face-washing for last, though she doesn’t know why. For breakfast, lunch and dinner during the week, Clare whips up a variety of healthy dishes as she enjoys cooking. Her gym, just up the street, is a place she visits at least 5 times per week. She’s addicted to LOST and – though she wouldn’t admit it publicly – loves to sing along to old lounge tunes in her living room (with the curtains drawn, of course).


Drogheda sits on the  Boyne River

If you thought that moving to Ireland was going to be all shamrocks and scones, you were kidding yourself. I thought no such thing; some days even an open mind and a world of patience don’t mute the growing pains that come from adjusting to a new country and culture.

Case in point: the Laser card issue. Pretty much everyone here uses a Laser card, which is the Irish equivalent to the ATM/Debit card. It is by PIN code only, as a safety precaution, whereas in the U.S. you can either sign the credit/debit slip or use your PIN. Thanks to the joy that is Irish time, I still haven’t received my laser card from the bank, so I’ve been using my ATM/Debit/Credit card – with lots of issues. Many places will not accept anything but cash or a Laser card, and many a clerk has stared quizzically at my credit card as if it was a fallen piece of a spaceship from another planet (I’m sure it’s a different story in Dublin, but I’m in a small town). Though VISA is supposed to be an internationally-recognized brand, my experience here has made me wonder.

Dryers, as in the kind that you use after the washing machine, are still a new concept here. Some people have them, and I have a dual washer/dryer in one (not the kind that’s on top of the other; this is one machine that washes and dries!), but hardly anyone uses them. With electricity costs at an all-time high, people would rather hang their clothes out to dry…even in Irish weather (read: cold, wet, and freezing). Since I just moved into my new apartment and have no idea how much my first electricity bill will be, I’m afraid to use the dryer. I’ve also been running the heat quite a bit (did I tell you it’s COLD here?), and I’m having a hard time figuring that out. I have storage heaters, which store heat during the night to save energy. There are so many knobs with a zillion numbers that I cannot figure out how to use anything besides the manual position, which no doubt is the most expensive option. The best part? Neither the management company of my building nor the handyman has a clue on how to use them. “You should Google it,” said the building manager. Gee, thanks.

Comfort foods like beans & eggs & toast help in times of trouble!


Generally speaking, Americans have no idea what a real scone should taste like. We have Starbucks, with its gigantic, triangular mound of cooked dough that strangely manages to be both oily and dry at the same time, to thank for that. Whether it’s the maple glazed or blueberry, these would-be breakfast pastries are better off as door stops, flying weapons or hockey pucks than as a food source of any kind.

In Ireland, scones are as they should be: buttery, soft and a flaky. Just a few days ago, I encountered a scone that I can say, in all honesty, is the best I’ve ever eaten. Allow me to start from the beginning: I went with my friend to a “coffee morning” for charity, hosted by the fab Olga Sherlock at her home in Drogheda. Basically Olga spent the better part of two days baking up a storm, and then invited friends over to eat her baked goods with coffee or tea. Everyone is encouraged to eat as much as he or she would like and stay for a bit of chit-chat. On the way out, patrons leave a donation and Olga donates the proceeds to charity. Really, it’s a win-win situation; you get to pig out on fantastic pastries and a deserving organization gets some much-needed help.


 Irish bacon, spuds and cabbage

One of the biggest changes in the last few weeks since I moved from Los Angeles to Ireland has been my diet. Actually, let me rephrase for maximum effect: Everything, from what I eat to when and how I eat has been completely flipped on its head.

Back in Los Angeles, I had somewhat of a routine when it came to what I ate on any given day. During the week, I cooked my own breakfast, lunch and dinner – with the exception of a weekday happy hour outing that also included a few drinks and shared appetizers. On weekends, I often hosted dinner parties at my house or went out to nice restaurants with friends. Generally we’d eat and drink a bit too much but it was the weekend, after all. Still, come Sunday morning, the guilt and the promises of a clean start for Monday would kick in.


Downtown Drogheda

You can live in a big city like Los Angeles your whole life and never run into someone you know on the street. Occasionally it happens; you’ll see a friend or co-worker and there’s always this sense of surprise, like “Funny seeing you here!” You might even tell someone else, “I ran into [fill in the blank] today at the store!” It’s unusual enough to make it newsworthy.

I’m finding that life in a small town like Drogheda means that you pretty much can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know. You’re probably wondering how many people I could possibly know here, and the answer is that I am friends with about seven people and am acquainted with about eight more, so 15 all together. On my first day here, as my friend and I drove through Drogheda, I spotted four people I know walking around town. Four!


It’s been less than a week since I arrived in Ireland, but I’m starting to get the hang of life around here. Certain things have made the transition much easier, like the uncharacteristically sunny weather we’ve been having since my arrival (apparently I brought the LA sunshine with me!). And of course my wonderful friends – both old and new – have been taking good care of me and showing me the ropes.

I’ve learned that trends, as in fashion, food and entertainment, can be more apparent in a small town like Drogheda. All the girls wear dresses when going out on a Saturday night, and by “all the girls” I mean all of them. Last night at Bru, a popular bar in downtown, I couldn’t find a single woman – besides the bartenders – wearing pants. It’s a *thing* here right now. To me, it’s a mix of old-school and new. The idea of women getting dolled up in dresses to go out on the town is a throw-back but at the same time it’s a sign of feminine power and confidence. In any case, I embrace it. I happily bought a dress in town yesterday.