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Entries tagged with “Irish food”.


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Every once in a while I like to write a short post on what we’ve been eating lately. We’re always keen to cook our own food versus buying ready-made lunches and we reserve restaurant outings for the weekends, so our kitchen is always bustling with activity.

Though it’s not always easy, it’s worth the effort. We buy 90% of our weekly groceries at the farmers’ market and get staples like ketchup, mayo, etc. at Lidl or SuperValu. This means there’s a whole routine of packaging up our vegetables and bread and fish/chicken/meat when we get home from the farmers’ market, as most of it isn’t in any kind of container or wrapping.

Still, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We eat incredibly well and Sunday through Friday we eat three meals a day that we’ve made ourselves. Our average cost? About €3.80 per person, per meal. Of course we’re not factoring in the effort it takes, but as I love to cook (and as Mountaineering Man is starting to get into cooking himself), we don’t mind it at all.

So here’s a look into an average week for us, many of these dishes don’t have recipes as we kind of throw them together. We focus on using everything we have for the week (I even write a list of what we have in the fridge every Sunday so I can better plan our meals and curb any waste) and with the exception of the weekends cook relatively simple food.

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Brown Bag Lunches

MM takes a couple of sandwiches, plus oatmeal with fruit plus an apple every day for his breakfasts and lunches at work. I try to make his sambos interesting, and always use meat from the butcher and fresh bread from either il Valentino or Arun Bakery plus a variety of condiments. Last week he took corned beef with pickles, Edam cheese and a homemade Thousand Island sauce. My breakfast usually consist of a huge Glowing Green Smoothie, which I make at home and bring to work, and lunches are usually vegan or vegetarian. Yesterday I brought some roasted cauliflower and sweet potato topped with baked beans. A bit odd, I know, but filling, easy and tasty.

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Recently I was asked to give a talk about my experience of adjusting to life as an American in Ireland for “Enlightenment Night” at the Workman’s Club in Dublin. The monthly event features a half-dozen speakers/performers who each share something that may educate, or at the very least entertain, the attendees. Organised and hosted by the incredibly talented and charming Maeve Higgins, the evening offers a bit of enlightenment on a wide range of topics.

I chose to speak about how – despite all the bad news and negativity in the press about Ireland and its economy – this country has in many ways been my salvation. Don’t get me wrong; my life in Los Angeles was fine, but I felt personally unfulfilled. And I knew the only way to get out of that rut was to change my perspective, which I found impossible to do without throwing myself into a completely different environment.

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My talk revolved around the idea of perspective, because Irish people’s reaction to my story of moving from LA to Drogheda (I now live in Dublin, but lived in Co Louth for the first year) is always that of shock and horror. From what I can tell, when Irish people think of Drogheda, they get visions of broken bottles in the street, antisocial toothless teens running amuck and dog poop on every footpath (someone once referred to it as “the armpit of the North East”). But when I first arrived, I didn’t see that stuff; I saw the rolling green hills, the cute cobblestone streets and the friendly people. Yes, the dog poop was there but there were so many other, positive aspects that I didn’t focus on the poop!

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The lobby of my old LA apartment building

I was at a shopping centre the other day when I witnessed a little girl – probably about 10 years old – throw herself at a pile of fuzzy, stuffed animals for sale while simultaneously begging her mother to buy one. “Pleeeeeease, I need one!” she squealed, clinging for dear life to one particularly pink panda.

Unconvinced, the mother firmly tugged her daughter away from the cuddly temptation and I could hear the whine slowly fade in the distance as the pair disappeared in a sea of shoppers. Though I can’t say for certain, I’m guessing that the little panda was likely forgotten by the end of that day. Out of sight, out of mind.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I was surrounded by shiny toys. Of course they were of the adult variety: high-end cars, expensive footwear, designer clothes and opulent restaurants with over-the-top menu offerings (and prices to match!). The more I was exposed to these things, the more I felt I needed them.

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Every time I’d get a lift in a friend’s wood grain interior-ed Mercedes Benz, my Honda Accord started to feel like a hunk of junk. Whenever I’d dine among the privileged elite at a Hollywood hot spot, I’d long for the freedom that an inflated salary afforded them; instead of dining there once every blue moon, I could go as often as I’d want. Even the gym wasn’t safe; working out next to the ladies-who-gym in all their designer workout gear would make my ratty t-shirt/tracksuit bottoms combo look like something from a charity shop reject pile.

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Patrick and me surrounded by bread; scenes from McCloskey’s main bakery

One of the benefits about living in a small town is that it doesn’t take long to find out where or who has the best of the best. For fish, I’ve heard it’s Kirwan’s Fish Cart; for meat, rumor is that Eamonn James Sampson on Peter Street has the best cuts. And for baked goods, most specifically Irish brown bread, I can personally say that it’s McCloskey’s Bakery.

Good brown bread, according to my Irish friends, should be substantial in texture, moist and a bit crumbly on the inside. Though it’s made with whole wheat flour, it’s nothing like the regular wheat sandwich/toast bread I was used to back in the U.S. This is a yeast-free bread that’s dense and nutty, made in a process similar to Irish soda bread. McCloskey’s signature “Cottage Brown” bread, with its perfect crumb and hearty wheat flavor, is truly the perfect brown bread and has become a staple in my pantry.

So I was thrilled when Patrick McCloskey, Master Baker and Managing Director of the company, invited me for a tour of his main bakery in Drogheda. Patrick and his immediate family are third generation in the bakery, which has become a local institution over the years. The family runs a bakery plant in Drogheda, a McCloskey’s Bakery shop in town plus the Moorland Café, which sells a range of fresh-baked pastries and breads along with a variety of sandwiches, salads and other savory dishes. The name has become synonymous with fantastic baked goods here. Just one taste of any of their products and it’s easy to understand how this family has gained such a positive reputation.

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Generally speaking, Americans have no idea what a real scone should taste like. We have Starbucks, with its gigantic, triangular mound of cooked dough that strangely manages to be both oily and dry at the same time, to thank for that. Whether it’s the maple glazed or blueberry, these would-be breakfast pastries are better off as door stops, flying weapons or hockey pucks than as a food source of any kind.

In Ireland, scones are as they should be: buttery, soft and a flaky. Just a few days ago, I encountered a scone that I can say, in all honesty, is the best I’ve ever eaten. Allow me to start from the beginning: I went with my friend to a “coffee morning” for charity, hosted by the fab Olga Sherlock at her home in Drogheda. Basically Olga spent the better part of two days baking up a storm, and then invited friends over to eat her baked goods with coffee or tea. Everyone is encouraged to eat as much as he or she would like and stay for a bit of chit-chat. On the way out, patrons leave a donation and Olga donates the proceeds to charity. Really, it’s a win-win situation; you get to pig out on fantastic pastries and a deserving organization gets some much-needed help.

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A very Californian meal: Brown Rice & Veggie Wrap

Yesterday the movers came and wrapped up all of my furniture, along with a good number of boxes, and took them away to a storage facility. Standing there in my empty apartment, it hit me: I’m really doing this.

It amazes me that just four months ago, the idea of moving to Ireland was a tiny lightbulb flickering weakly in the back of my mind. I let the idea sit for about a week before nonchalantly browsing a few websites on how Americans can legally live in Ireland. Yesterday, my dad and I took nine boxes – all filled with my clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils and various personal effects – to the post office. Those boxes will arrive just a few days after I do, in Ireland.

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