Archive for August, 2010


The metropolis of Dublin, which deserves to be represented – along with the rest of Ireland – in the media.

I was spending time with a friend over the weekend when she expressed her dread for the upcoming work week. “But it’s a bank holiday on Monday!” I told her, thinking she’d be pleasantly surprised upon realizing she forgot about the three-day weekend. “Oh that’s not for us, that’s only for the UK,” she replied flatly.

The reason why I thought today was a bank holiday is because for the last week, it’s been mentioned in a lot of television advertisements. One cable channel was running a campaign for the Jennifer Lopez film, Maid in Manhattan, publicizing that it would be played twice “on bank holiday Monday!” A grocery store chain had an ad that promoted specials for “the upcoming bank holiday Monday!” Since these were ads playing in Ireland, I’d just assumed the holiday applied to us. Not so. Quite cruel, if you ask me.



Nancy (right smack in the middle!) with her siblings at a recent birthday celebration for her brother.

Being from Los Angeles, I have a pretty specific definition of the Independent Woman. She’s single or dating someone (or a few people!), has a successful career, rents a nice apartment or perhaps even owns a condo or house and has a social calendar that involves lots of fabulous restaurants, bars and friends. She not only brings home the bacon (or maybe some organic chorizo), but she can fry it up in a pan, toss it on a bed of farmers’ market vegetables and have it all ready for an impromptu Friday-night dinner party for a few of her closest pals without breaking a sweat.

Suffice it to say, I was that Independent Woman living in Los Angeles. And though now I live in Ireland, I’ve worked hard to maintain that IW lifestyle – though it’s not always easy. I do rent a fabulous apartment and have maintained my writing career but there are not a lot of great restaurants or bars in the town of Drogheda, where I reside. However I still have my dinner parties and nights out and I’ve made some incredibly fabulous friends. But the more time I spend here in Ireland, the more I’m realizing that there is a whole other type of independent woman out there, and she is the polar opposite of me.


vegan salad

Roasted butternut squash on mixed greens with crispy shallots and sage leaves is pure vegan goodness

My hometown of Los Angeles can be a bit odd at times, to say the least. It’s not unusual to overhear someone at Starbucks place an order that would make even the most seasoned barista’s head spin: “Non-fat, half-caf, half-decaf, low-fat tall soy latte with one squirt of no-sugar vanilla syrup, extra hot and served in a grande-sized cup…to go.” It’s also quite common to see menu items that sound more like rabbit food than nourishment for humans, like macrobiotic sea cake with a side of millet or heirloom-varietal organic brown rice biscuits with honey and carob chips. In the health-conscious, model-and-actor Mecca of LA, people can be certifiably obsessed with what they put into their mouths, and restaurants and even Starbucks must cater to the oft-ridiculous requests of its customers if they want to stay in business.

In Drogheda, I get a double-take when I ask for low-fat salad dressing and I once got a cup of instant coffee when I asked for decaf at a local café (I sent it back). There aren’t a lot of choices around here, especially for people who want something healthy and/or beyond the average meat-and-potatoes fare. I imagine being a vegetarian in Ireland is about as unproblematic as being an alcoholic in Kuwait.



Our menu for the evening, a la chef Imen!

It was bound to happen: Normalcy has set into my life here in Ireland. I know my way around town, I have favorite restaurants and pubs and I rarely go to the gym I joined a few months ago (if that’s not a sign of being settled I don’t know what is). Gone are the days of getting hopelessly lost on the way to the gas station and having to ask grocery store clerks to educate me on the difference between rashers and streaky bacon. I know that Come Dine with Me, my favorite show on television, reruns all five episodes on Sunday afternoons, and that if I don’t have a 1 Euro coin for the shopping cart I can use a 20-cent coin as it’s exactly the same size. In a nutshell, I’ve assimilated and life has become somewhat routine.

imen3 imen8

Richard, the Irish farmer himself, and Imen; Corey and Liam of Irish Fireside.


tuna salad main

I’ve always believed that food is an important reflection of the culture in any country, and as a food and travel journalist this is something I’ve been lucky enough to explore in a good few places. Since moving to Ireland I have learned that the potato is King, beef is a staple in most people’s diets and cabbage is almost always boiled and served with Irish bacon (which is more like ham for us Americans than what we know as bacon).

I’m also starting to get a better understanding of what flavors appeal to the Irish palate. When it comes to potato chips (or crisps, as they say here), the most common flavors are smoky bacon, cheese and onion and salt and vinegar. People especially seem fond of the bacon variety, at least that’s what I gather from my friends. And though a lot of Irish I know have an aversion to seafood, they adore the popular prawn cocktail-flavored crisps – something I’ve never seen in the U.S.