Sun 18 Jul 2010
I’m not going to lie: Sometimes Ireland gets to me, and not in a good way. Lately I’ve been feeling quite cranky, to be rather polite, and it seems every little thing gets on my nerves. Whether it’s a silly thing like the lack of “plain” clothing I can find (what is up with this country’s obsession with bows and floral patterns?) or something more serious like the blatant sexism I witness on a weekly basis, there are times when I feel like Drogheda itself is squeezing every last bit of sanity right out of my soul. The constant hay fever, the zillions of greenfly in the air and lackadaisical approach to customer service drives me nuts. The other day I had to go to three grocery shops just to find the ingredients for a pretty basic meal. As I searched yet another store for fresh basil, I found myself muttering under my breath like a crazy old bag lady, “What is wrong with this place?!”
The weather doesn’t help either. While we’ve had a relatively mild summer so far, the last week brought monsoon-type rain showers that made everything more difficult. The other day I was walking to the store when another downpour suddenly occurred and I had to struggle to get inside the shop because customers were all standing in the doorway, waiting for the rain to subside. I wanted to physically push them aside but I value my freedom so I refrained. We had 5 days in a row of lashing rain with no letup in sight and even though I was warned about the Irish summers before I came, it’s nearly pushed me over the edge.
I find myself nitpicking at everything and literally throwing childish tantrums…clearly not my proudest moments. My poor friend Niall recently had to listen to me go on and on about all the things that bug me about Ireland (thrilling for him, considering he’s a proud Irishman) and another friend Olga has endured a good few tirades on the sad state of dating in Drogheda. Sinead, who I have known forever and has been nothing but kind to me since I moved here, has been witness to a few stress-related outbursts – unfortunately for her. Last night she ended up on the receiving end of an ill-tempered rant where I raised my voice and cut her off at least a half-dozen times. If there was a show called “Expats Gone Mad” I’d certainly be a candidate.
As anyone who’s moved abroad will tell you, sometimes the cultural differences, major change in climate and numerous modifications to life as you once knew it can build up, but there are better ways of coping than taking it out on those closest to you (apologies to everyone above). As for the bows and floral patterns, maybe I can start shopping online where there are more choices – an easy solution to an insignificant problem. The sexism? Well, that’s a bit harder to get used to but perhaps my focus should be on the fact that there is progress being made in this regard. And the weather, while I can’t do much about it one thing that helps is cooking my favorite summer meals from back home. I recently made a lovely summer salad and fresh corn and tomato tart for a dinner gathering, both of which I used to make a lot back in Los Angeles. It was raining buckets outside but for that evening we had a little taste of LA sunshine in the middle of an Irish summer storm. And God knows I need a little ray of sunshine right about now.
Fresh Corn and Tomato Tart
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
3 tablespoons of olive oil
4 cups of cherry tomatoes
2 cups of freshly cut corn kernels
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup fresh chives or spring onion, chopped
2 puff pastry sheets, thawed
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the broiler. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil and anchovy paste then add the tomatoes, corn, basil and chives and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and put mixture on a baking sheet, and place sheet in broiler for 15 minutes, turning the mixture with a spatula halfway through. Remove from broiler and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take the two puff pastry sheets and put them side by side, using your fingers to create a seam to connect the two. Fold down the sides to create a border along the edges and using a fork prick holes all over the base of the puff pastry. Move to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tinfoil then cover the top of the pasty with more parchment paper. Fill the center of the tart shell with dried beans and blind bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and throw away paper and beans.
Turn the oven up to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the Parmesan on the puff pastry and put back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Put the tomato/corn mixture in the tart shell and put back into the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.