Sat 14 May 2011
When I moved to Drogheda from Los Angeles just over 14 months ago, I was looking for a break from big-city life. I spent the first part of my childhood in Tokyo, my formative years in Los Angeles and my college days in San Francisco so living in a small town (well, small for me) was something out of my comfort zone.
It was an adjustment but that year in Drogheda was a good one. I learned to navigate narrow country roads with ease; I got used to seeing people I knew around town; I found ways to deal with the lack of variety when it came to restaurants and food shops. But even though I’m now back in a big city, it’s still a world away from where I originally came.
Dublin, in all its metropolitan glory, still offers something completely new to my LA-bred self. And my new neighborhood is its own little microcosm all together. On breezy days the nutty scent of roasted barley from the Guinness factory – located just around the corner – wafts through the apartment window. For every 50 cars on our road there is a horse-drawn carriage, still a popular mode of transport with some of the Travellers in the area. At least once a day I hear the hollow clop of horse hooves hitting the pavement below and though some see the carriages as a nuisance it is an audible and pleasant reminder of where I am; a place very far from home but one that is almost a fairytale.
Where else can you gaze upon thousands-year-old stone churches from the modern convenience that is the LUAS street tram? Nowhere I’ve ever lived. Just walking down the road is an adventure. Yesterday, on my short stroll around the nabe, I walked down a cobblestone street under a sparkling ray of sunshine one minute and was rushing across a major four-lane thoroughfare under spring showers the next. During my walk I passed a vintage clothing shop, four horse-drawn carriages, a contemporary row of apartments, a fish-and-chip van, and a tiny, well-worn pub that looked like it had served its fair share of pints. There is so much variety condensed into such a small space here and the randomness is something I find quite appealing.
I always had lofty and quite typical dreams to live abroad, most of which were based on images I saw in films or scenes I read about in books. You know the scenario: A cute little Parisian apartment overlooking the Seine. Me, sitting on my balcony sipping a cappuccino and reading a book…or even better, writing my book. I’d have intimate dinner parties with my international posse of friends and make food from produce bought exclusively at outdoor markets and protein purchased only at the local fishmonger or butcher shops. Oh and of course there’d be romance with a dashing suitor. I don’t know what it is, but we women have a tendency toward these live-abroad fantasies and I was no different.
The other day Mountaineering Man and I walked along the beautiful River Liffey, had lunch at a cute cafe on the waterfront and ducked out of the rain to spend some time at our favorite local bookstore, Chapters. We came home and had a dinner party for two; a little avocado pesto pasta made with fresh, organic produce and some lovely blushed Rosè. We then met up with a couple of pals at the launch party for a friend’s new cookery show (PLUG: Kitchen Hero on RTE 1, Mondays at 8:30 pm!) and had a few glasses of wine and a lot of fun chat before heading home in a taxi. The next day we walked to IMMA and shared quiet time over cupcakes and coffee at the museum cafe before viewing the Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera exhibit. It ain’t Paris, but life in Dublin is even better than any fantasy could ever be…because it’s real.
Avocado Pesto Pasta with Peas and Spinach
250 grams of whole wheat spaghetti
8 ounces frozen spinach
5 ounces frozen peas
1 ripe, medium-sized Haas avocado
3 cloves of young garlic or 1 clove regular garlic, minced finely
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. While spaghetti is cooking, place spinach into a bowl and cover with boiling water and let sit for a few minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water once it is cooled down. To defrost the peas, either do the same (without squeezing!) or just run in a sieve under hot water. Set spinach and peas aside. After pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, mash together the avocado and garlic using a fork or potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat up the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the mixture and spaghetti and toss together. Add in the spinach and peas and mix and cook over low heat just to warm through. Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 2 people.
To make this vegan, simply omit the cheese and use vegan pasta!