Sat 10 Dec 2011
It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of things I find funny and/or odd in Ireland, and believe me the list expands on an almost-daily basis. Just because I’ve been here for a while now doesn’t mean I understand the bizarrities (<– my own creation) of the Emerald Isle any better than I did when I was fresh off the plane back in March 2010. Here are a few recent discoveries:
Confusing names: I remember the first time someone offered me a flapjack here in Ireland; what I got was not what I would call a flapjack. What we Americans call a flapjack is basically a pancake – an American pancake, mind you, not the thin, crepe-like “pancakes” of Ireland. What people here call a flapjack is basically a soft granola bar to me – a bar made up of oats, with maybe some nuts and/or dried fruit. On a similar note, I recently made some cinnamon rolls for a bake-off, and no one seemed to know what they were. People were calling them everything from morning buns to cakey thing, which is no surprise considering I’ve never seen a cinnamon roll at a bakery in Ireland.
Speaking of pancakes: I think I’ve written here before about how most of my friends – church-going or not – give up something for Lent. Whether it’s chocolate (a hugely popular sacrifice), bread or alcohol, it seems like everyone is giving up something for these 40 days. So the day before everyone gives up their [fill in the blank], they have what people here call “Pancake Tuesday.” On the evening before Lent begins, people whip up pancakes loaded with all kinds of toppings: chocolate drops, whipped cream, Golden Syrup, marshmallows – you name it, it’s on there. The tradition stems from Shrove Tuesday, which dates back to the early Middle Ages. Back then the church forbade its members from eating meat, eggs and dairy products during Lent, so mammies used up whatever eggs, milk and butter they had left to make pancakes. I doubt they were topped with M&Ms, but as they say you can’t stop progress!
Death on the Radio: As the Irish are obsessed with obituaries (seriously, the fascination is odd), it’s no surprise that the weekly announcement of death notices broadcast on radio stations around the country is popular listening to many in rural Ireland. So popular are they that some radio stations read them off 3-5 days per week. For some families, gathering ‘round the radio with a cup of tea to hear a loved one, neighbour or acquaintance’s name being read from the death list is part of the normal weekend routine. “Ah yes, James – there he is!” a mother of a friend of mine would say, after hearing the name of an old school mate who’d recently passed. It’s almost as if the death is not real until it’s confirmed on the radio here in Ireland.
Insults: I’m always impressed at how the Irish can turn any ordinary word into an insult just by using it in place of a standard slur. Perfect example: Cabbage. “What a stupid cabbage!” one might say. Another seemingly harmless word frequently used on the offensive: wagon. “She’s some wagon, isn’t she?!” One of my favourites uses a word that I grew up with, except I always identified it with furry, cute puppets. “That muppet wouldn’t shut his mouth! Did you ever hear such nonsense?”
Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars
Whenever I see Rice Krispie Bars here in Ireland, they’re made with melted chocolate and little else. Basically you melt chocolate, stir in the cereal, spread it out in a pan and let cool. But the bars I grew up always, ALWAYS used melted marshmallows, a bit of butter and the cereal bits. There’s just something so satisfying about that chewy, crunchy combination of Rice Krispies and melted marshmallows that can’t be beat. I recently made a peanut butter version, which went over very well with my Irish friends.
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups mini marshmallows (or 3 cups regular-sized marshmallows)
½ cup smooth peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispie cereal
1 bar of dark chocolate, about 8 ounces
½ cup chopped peanuts
In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. As soon as the butter is melted, throw in the marshmallows, stirring constantly, and let melt completely (about 5 minutes). Then add in the peanut butter, stirring until it’s all incorporated with the melted marshmallows. Turn the heat to low, then stir in the cereal. When it’s all mixed together, press into a buttered 9 x 13 baking tin (I wet my hands with a bit of water to prevent sticking) and let cool for an hour.
To decorate: Break up the dark chocolate bar and put into a microwave-proof bowl. The melting time really depends on your microwave’s strength, so I recommend trying 30 seconds at a time, stirring every time you check, until it’s completely melted. Be careful not to overcook it, otherwise the chocolate will become gloppy and separate.
Using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the Rice Krispies and then top with the chopped peanuts. Let cool for another hour and then cut into squares.