Mon 5 Sep 2011
I feel incredibly lucky and grateful when I receive comments and emails from readers of this blog. When I started the blog 18 months ago I never thought the readership would extend beyond friends and family back home, so it’s always a thrill to get emails written by complete strangers from all over the world.
I get a lot of emails from Americans who have recently moved here and are looking for advice on how to adjust to their new lives in Ireland. They range from super excited to completely freaked out (“I just realized I don’t know ANYONE here!?” wrote one) and they always remind me of what I went through when I first landed in Ireland. Recently a DCU graduate student wrote to ask me where she could buy basic things like towels, bedding and a few kitchen items. Having only been here a few days, she realized she had no idea where to go for such items. It made me recall a time where I, too, was utterly clueless about where to shop and how to get there and how to go about paying for it once all of the above was accomplished.
These are things that I now take for granted, but her email took me right back to my early days here in Ireland. The first shop I went to was Dunnes, and when I pulled out my ATM/Check card (<—what we call it back in America) I was told they would not accept it, which I found odd as I’d used it all over the world. The lady behind the counter told me I would need a “laser card or chip ‘n pin device” – had no idea what that was, of course. I remember ringing my new bank in Drogheda and asking them for one, and being told I’d have to go in person to request one…and that of course they would be closed until Monday (I’d rang on a Friday). Finding out that banks and post offices were closed on Saturdays was also a big shock.
I also remember the first time I dressed my bed – something that, on the surface, seems simple enough but is actually rife with issues! Even though the bed in my new apartment was a “double” my double-sized fitted sheet from back home was far too big. I went to the shop and realized the sizes here are completely different…a double here is a full back home, a king here is a queen back home and a king-plus here is a king back home. Needless to say I had to return and exchange bedding purchases more than once before I figured it all out.
And don’t even get me started on the differences in dress/clothing sizes! I can’t even tell you how horrified I was when I first tried on a size 10 pair of jeans here – I couldn’t even zip them up! Then an Irish friend told me that a US size 10 is actually a size 14 here. Though I know it’s technically still the same size, it was major psychological blow. Every time I’d reach for a size 14 item of clothing my brain would scream, “You’ve gone up TWO sizes since moving to Ireland you big heifer!!!” Amazing how cruel the inner female voice can be sometimes.
There are still lessons to be learned and I’m not even close to having it all figured out…even after a year-and-a-half of residency. I’m still baffled by the timer-run water heating systems in most apartments here, still confused by the local slang (recently learned “scarle” was Dublin speak for “scarlet” which means embarrassed or mortified) and wonder if I’ll ever understand the incomprehensible and down-right inaccurate weather reporting here. Then again, all these little challenges sure keeps life interesting!
Back in LA, brunch is a huge deal and nearly every weekend my sister, brother-in-law and I went out for the mid-morning meal. Here, there are very few brunch options so I find myself making it at home and it’s a real comfort meal for me. Two of my favourites are bagels and lox (smoked salmon) and Eggs Benedict, which are both easy to make yourself. If you don’t want to make your own Hollandaise sauce, pick some up at a good shop like Fallon & Byrne. I won’t include a recipe for bagels and lox; simply buy a pack of your favourite bagels (mine is Goody bagels by McCloskey’s), smoked salmon, cream cheese and fresh dill. Toast your bagel, spread on the cream cheese, layer on the salmon and top with the dill. You’re ready to go!
Clare’s Eggs Benedict (serves 2)
2 seeded rolls, sliced in half and toasted – I get mine from Lidl’s bakery
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 slices of Italian prosciutto
Cracked fresh pepper
First you’ll want to poach your eggs: Fill a medium saucepan with water about 3/4 of the way and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add in the red wine vinegar (you can use malt vinegar if you prefer). Carefully crack the eggs into the saucepan one by one and side-by-side (not on top of each other!). Some people like to swirl the egg around but I find that the water in Ireland is hard enough and the eggs form together quickly without stirring, but it’s up to you. I sometimes take the handle of the pot and swish a bit so the eggs don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 4 minutes for medium-soft eggs. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the water and place on a plate lined with kitchen roll. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.
Now you’re ready to compile the eggs Benedict: Place one slice of prosciutto on each of the four half-slices of roll. Next add the egg then drizzle with Hollandaise and a sprinkle of black pepper. Serve immediately while the eggs and sauce are still warm!