Nothing beats a hot bowl of stew on a cold Irish night!

After months of planning, today I finally landed on Irish soil. If the rest of my year (or two)-long stay is anything like the first day, I’d say things will be all right.

My friends Trevor and Sinead – who no doubt will become recurring characters in this blog – picked me up at Dublin airport this cold but sunny morning. After a quick stop at the post office, we arrived at Sinead’s house in Collon where I took a power nap before a long, hot shower. On a side note, I didn’t get an ounce of sleep on the flight over on Aer Lingus, even though I had FOUR seats all to myself. Why? Because the arm rests do not go up!!?? Talk about the world’s cruelest joke! But I digress.

For my first dinner in Ireland, Sinead’s mom cooked up a lovely beef stew with potatoes – a quintessential Irish meal. As the plates warmed on the wood-burning oven and the smell of Bisto filled the kitchen, it hit me that I was really here. After dinner, we all sat around and had tea and biscuits (a.k.a. cookies) and now, as I write this, we’re in the living room watching Emmerdale, one of many night-time dramas that is a regular staple in this household.

A few observations during my first 12 hours in Ireland:

It’s really cold. This isn’t exactly a mind-boggling revelation, but it’s not just that the air is cold, everything is cold around here. The bedsheets are cold. The doorknobs are cold. The pinky nail on your left hand is cold. Catch my [cold] drift?

-Cookies and chocolate are an essential food group, part of every Irish person’s daily dietary intake.

-People here are genuinely nice and helpful. That said, you cannot go five minutes without being made fun of (“taking the piss”), so it’s important to grow a thick skin and give it right back.

Tomorrow, the building of my new life begins with a series of small but important tasks: getting a new cell phone, registering with the local police station (so I can get my resident card) and opening up a bank account. But tonight, I’m looking forward to a good night sleep in my new host country!

Nancy’s Beef Stew
4-6 servings

1 tablespoon of oil
Flour for coating
1.5 lbs of stew beef
2 beef stock cubes
1.5 pints plus 2 tablespoons of cold water
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
10 small potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons Bisto
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a stew pot over medium heat and add oil. Take the stew beef and roll the pieces around in the flour until coated. Brown the meat in the pot until browned on all sides. Add the 1.5 pints of cold water and beef stock cubes into the pot with the meat, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Add in the onion, carrots and potatoes and let simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Dissolve the Bisto in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the Bisto mixture in and stir until it is completely incorporated into the stew. Put pot back on the heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot!