In a word, Ireland is scrappy. It’s determined, at times aggressive and definitely rough around the edges. Coming from the shiny, glossy land of perfection that is Los Angeles, it’s a relief to live in a place where being flawed is perfectly acceptable…even on television.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I slag off the Xposé girls for their oft-colorful choices in wardrobe and haphazard-looking makeup ‘dos. But in truth it’s actually refreshing to see normal women on television, especially considering all the big entertainment news shows in the U.S. are hosted by waifish talking heads who spend more time starving themselves than researching stories (on that note, I have to ask: Can Giuliana Rancic get any thinner?). I like that Karen Koster often looks like she did her own hair and makeup, and I don’t mean that in an insulting way. She looks real, like someone I’d actually know – not like the diva with a team of stylists and airbrushers at her beckon call.

Giuliana And it’s not just the look that’s imperfect. On a recent episode of Xposé, one of the presenters (I think it was Lisa Cannon) asked Cameron Diaz why she prefers movies with a “green theme.” When Diaz gave a look of bewilderment, Cannon rambled something about how Shrek and The Green Hornet both had green “things” in them. Initially I cringed (like most viewers, no doubt!), but then again as a former entertainment journalist I know more than anyone that sometimes nerves get the better of you. I once asked Rivers Cuomo of Weezer what he meant by the lyrics, “My mind turns to an orange mess” and he looked at me like I was nuts (the lyric was actually, “My mind begins the arrangements.”). If I’m honest I love that Xposé chose to leave that in, to show Cannon and her awkward moment with the glamorous celebrity.

sinead desmond

Where in LA things are often presented with the most flattering filter and silky-smooth sheen and a “been-there-done-that” lackadaisical attitude, Ireland is refreshingly earnest. Recently Ireland AM’s Sinead Desmond had a sit-down with Harrison Ford; she was absolutely giddy and openly talked about her enthusiasm every day for a week leading up to the televised interview. During her talk with Ford she had a difficult time containing her excitement, which seemed to actually charm the notoriously-grumpy actor. In LA, presenters think of themselves as celebrities so they’d never actually show any open admiration for the people they interview. “Oh, Harrison and I go way back, we’re hoping to summer together in the Hamptons this year,” would not be an unusual statement by a celeb reporter in Hollywood. Believe me; I’ve heard similar declarations first-hand.

I often get the feeling that these Irish entertainment news presenters have to stretch what they can get, because press junkets rarely come to Ireland. I’m sure their budgets are incredibly tight and every one person is doing the job of two or three people. Even in London, it seems the Irish ent news shows are given last-place spots on the red carpet, leaving reporters scrambling for face time with even minor movie actors. It means they have to work harder, be more enterprising and do the best they can with what they’ve got. Like I said, scrappy. And I like it.

Pork Teriyaki

Sweet Teriyaki Pork with Seaweed Rice

For Valentine’s Day, I made this easy and delicious dish for MM – someone who (thankfully!) accepts me as I am – scrappy, imperfect, flaws and all! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

For the marinade:

½ cup dark soy sauce (important to get dark soy sauce – available at Asian markets)

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 spring onions, finely diced

For the rice:

1 cup brown rice – cook according to package directions (start with 1 cup UNCOOKED brown rice, will yield about 2 cups cooked)

3 tablespoons of aonori-ko (dried green seaweed, available at Drury Street Asian Market or here). If you cannot find this, simply buy nori, or dried seaweed sheets (like they use in sushi) and cut into small pieces with a scissors and toss with the rice.

For pork:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lb pork loin, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly

5 spring onions, cut into 2-inch strips

In a large Tuperware, mix all the marinade ingredients together until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add in the pork and let marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

An hour before you are ready to eat, prepare the rice according to package directions. After the rice is cooked, mix in the aonori-ko and set aside.

Drain the marinade and set the pork aside. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. You want the pan to be hot, though not smoking. Add the red bell peppers first, cooking for about 2-3 minutes. Then throw in the spring onions and pork and cook until the pork is completely cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve the pork over the rice.