Sat 10 Mar 2012
Things have been so nuts lately I completely forgot that March 4th marked the two-year anniversary of my move to Ireland. I suppose in one sense, that’s a good thing – living here has become so normal that I don’t find myself counting days or marking time based on when I arrived – or when I’ll leave, if and when that day ever comes.
If I thought the first year of living here was a whirlwind, the second has been a down-right blizzard of activity and major life changes. In the last year, I moved from my humble little apartment in the centre of Drogheda town centre into Mountaineering Man’s bachelor apartment in Dublin 8. We then moved together to our place in Raheny a few months later.
I spent my first Christmas in Ireland with MM’s family, which was lovely (though no sign of snow this year, which to be honest was a bit sad for me!); I’m working like crazy (a good thing) and I’ve made a good number of new friends in Dublin over the last 12 months. Of course there was the engagement (!!) and now I’m in the thick of wedding planning. We’ve already got our appointment at the courthouse and in the autumn we’ll marry in Tuscany (more on that later, I promise!).
A lot of my friends back home ask me if and how Ireland has changed me, and how much of an influence Irish culture and its social culture has been. Because those changes have all happened naturally, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how they’ve affected me. I know that I’m more patient when it comes to driving; Irish people rarely beep their car horns and are generally very polite drivers whereas in Los Angeles everyone is trying to get one car ahead of you all the time it seems. I’ve become used to smaller things – refrigerators, containers of milk, entrée portions, cars, mailboxes, grocery shops. While America is the land of “bigger is better” mentality, things tend to be quite compact here. I like it.
There are some things about Ireland that I’ll likely never get accustomed to or embrace. When I make scones, I still shape them into triangles, not rounds. I’m still baffled by what the Irish consider “warm” weather here. The other day a friend of mine stated – with complete seriousness – “It’s going to be a warm afternoon, about 14 degrees!” She was referring to 14 degrees Celsius, which is about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, but that is nowhere near warm nor will it ever be in my book. It also seems my body will never, ever adjust to whatever it is about the Irish air that makes my sinuses go absolutely haywire on a DAILY basis. Whether it’s raining, sunny, summer, winter, indoors, outdoors, asleep or awake, I’m utterly plagued by sneezing attacks, sinus infections and head colds. I’ve recently started a new medication which *seems* to be working all right, though this morning I had a 5-minute sneeze-a-thon just after waking. *Achooooo!*
As for the lingo, I now say things I never thought I would. I refer to food as being “nice,” which when I first moved here struck me as entirely odd. “That pie is so nice!” – meaning, it tastes good – is a phrase that has comfortably slipped into my vocabulary sometime in the last 24 months. I refer to chicken nuggets as chicken “fingers” or “gougons,” which is a more fancy way to say it. But I still pronounce Hyundai as “hun-dai” not “hi-un-dai” as the Irish do, and Renault as “re-nolt” not “ren-oh” the way the Irish do. I still spell skeptical with a “k” and tires with an “i.” And it’s hard for me to imagine ever feeling comfortable using the word “grand” the way the Irish do: How are you? “I’m grand!” Just feels weird to me. I still answer, “I’m fine.”
But let’s be honest, I’m more than fine. Ireland, thank you for being so good to me. It’s been a wild two years, and I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.
I Am [Kind of] Transformed Tacos
One thing I miss about Los Angeles is the creative, healthy food that can be found just about anywhere. I agree, it can be a bit over the top at times – I’m not sure if raw kale with wheatgrass juice would be considered “tasty” by even the healthiest health nut. But places like Café Gratitude offer incredibly yummy but healthy fare and my sister recently told me about their butternut squash and black bean tacos, which are appropriately [and somewhat embarrassingly] called “I Am Transformed.” Yep, that’s LA for you! And considering the tacos are packed with healthy ingredients, the name is actually spot-on. My sister recently recreated the tacos, and I have done so as well – altering a few ingredients based on what I had around.
8 soft tortillas of any kind: corn, flour, spelt (I make mine with spelt, water and olive oil)
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 whole head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups of prepared pinto (brown) beans (soaked overnight, then simmered for 45 mins in salted water), or 1 tin of pinto beans or black beans
Crumbled up feta cheese
Homemade pico de gallo (recipe here)
Preheat oven to 170C.
Put the cubed butternut squash into a large bowl and drizzle with ½ tablespoon of olive oil and toss until well coated. Season with salt and pepper and spread out into one layer on a baking sheet. Take the head of garlic and slice lengthwise in half, drizzle the exposed cloves with remaining olive oil and put top up on the baking sheet with the squash.
In the meantime, heat up the pinto or black beans in a sauce pan over medium heat. Set aside over low heat to keep warm.
Place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender. Let cool for 5 minutes. Place squash and a few of the garlic cloves into food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside.
Place the tortillas on a plate and cover with a damn tea towel, and microwave until warm (depends on the wattage of your microwave). Now you’re ready to assemble!
Place two tortillas on each plate, then dollop a couple of big tablespoons of the butternut squash/garlic puree on top. Then top with a big spoonful of beans, some crumbles of feta cheese and some pico de gallo salsa. Serve and enjoy!