Thu 14 Oct 2010
If you would have told my parents a year ago that they’d spend their next vacation visiting me in Ireland, they’d have laughed it off as an amusing but silly joke. To be honest, I probably would have as well. Funny how quickly life can change.
Last week my parents came over and got some insight into my new life here and what it all means. They partook in some of my now-daily routines, like breakfast of sliced McCloskey’s Cottage Brown Bread with a medium-boiled egg served in an egg cup (something not at all popular in the U.S.). They did their laundry in my tiny washing machine/dryer combo, and managed to hang everything properly on my indoor clothes horse and realized it would take approximately 24 hours for those clothes to dry. And after a few searches in the dark, they grasped that the bathroom light switch in Ireland is always, always outside the bathroom! And they experienced all little things that used to drive me crazy, like the nonsensical pricing scheme of Irish Rail tickets (Dad: “How is it 12 euro for one way to Dundalk when it’s 14 euro to go all the way to Dublin and back!?”). It was fun to watch them adjust to all the oddities I struggled with upon my arrival here. It reminded me of just how settled I feel now.
On day two of their visit, they got some real local culture in the form of the local GAA championship match between Collon’s Mattock Rangers and the Cooley Kickhams. I spent the first day of their trip explaining just how obsessed Collon folk are with the team and with the championship cup; luckily I had written about the Mattock Rangers before and they’d read it, so they had some idea. Still, I’d say they were surprised to hear my expressed guilt over ordering the “Cooley Lamb” off the menu at Fitzpatrick’s Restaurant, where we’d gone for dinner the evening before the match. They were probably more surprised to hear me tell our waitress, who proclaimed herself as a Cooley fan (and even sported their colors under her waitress apron!) that she’d better be bracing herself for a loss the next day. Of course it was all in good humor but me, the LA girl who normally could care less about sports publicly defending the Mattock Rangers to a perfect stranger? I was shocked to hear the words coming out of my own mouth!
Come game day they got to experience the nail-biting, neck-in-neck match between the two teams live and in person. They observed all the pomp and circumstance of the pre-game festivities, heard all the impassioned, profanity-laced yelling from the spectators and got a detailed run-down of the rules from my friend Aoife. They witnessed the sheer madness when the Mattock Rangers won (do you really think I’d admit publicly to ordering Cooley lamb had they not?), when everyone in the stands spilled out onto the field, screaming and spraying champagne and jumping for joy. Afterward we went down to the village pub and they experienced the post-match, drunken debauchery of the team and all their fans. In true Irish fashion, they were bombarded with free rounds and bear hugs and my mom even danced with my very drunk friend Bushman to some traditional Irish music.
We did all the historical sites like Newgrange, Knowth and Millmount, and they did the Guinness tour and visited Dublin Castle and saw the Book of Kells and all that other cultural stuff. But what I think impressed them most was the Irish hospitality. When our taxi driver in Dublin got lost on the way to our destination, he refused to take any money for the entire cab ride – even though he’d eventually gotten us to where we were going. Every time we’d walk around town, we’d get a wave and a “hello” from my local butcher, fishmonger and coffee shop barista. When we went to Collon for a big country walk, my friend Sinead baked up her famous apple tart just for them (my dad said it was the best apple tart he’d had in recent memory). My friend Keith, who used to be my flatmate in San Francisco over a dozen years ago and hadn’t seen my parents since, called in to just to say hello and spend some time catching up with them.
Though I’d told them all about life here on the phone and via email, I think being here made them see that what started off as a trial experiment has transformed into a real life. And how, a mere seven months after moving here, I’ve fallen in love with this incredibly beautiful, often maddening and always gracious country of Ireland.
Mussels in Garlic and Tomato Broth
On my parent’s last night in Ireland, I decided to cook dinner at my apartment so we could relax and enjoy a chill night at home before they flew back. We went to my local fishmonger (Kirwan’s Fish Cart in Drogheda) and got a bag of mussels for this super quick, easy but wonderful dish. Serve with some crusty bread and a salad and you’ve got the perfect dinner!
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 white onion, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
½ cup of dry white wine
1.5 cans of chopped tomatoes
4 lbs mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
3 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and shallot and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the thyme and red chili flakes and cook for an additional minute. Add in the white wine and tomatoes and bring to a boil, adding salt and pepper to taste at this point. Add in the mussels. Cook until all the shells have opened (discard any where the shells remain closed). Remove from heat and toss in the butter and stir until melted, then top with chopped parsley. Serve in a large bowl.