I’ve been traveling a lot this summer. By far the biggest event was our tour of Ireland.
This was a tour that focused on theater and playwriting, an especially exciting time for theater given that Ireland is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. That rebellion led to eventual independence from Great Britain in 1921. The Irish people were wonderfully friendly, the country is green and beautiful, and the food is fresh and delicious. Since we spent most of our time in Galway and Dublin, we were always near the sea. What better place to enjoy fresh seafood?
Salmon, Haddock, Cod, Sea Bream, smoked salmon, mussels, prawns, lobster, chowders – they had it all in abundance. The most puzzling sounding seafood, described by Paddy, our bus driver, as “Icesters”, turned out to be particularly sweet, and succulent, local oysters. Fish & chips, and fish & onion rings were ubiquitous. And if seafood was not on the menu there was plenty of Irish bacon (think Canadian bacon), pork, beef, sausages and cheeses. I must also mention white and black pudding – tasty seasoned pork meat and fat, suet, bread and oatmeal formed into a large sausage, sliced, fried, and served everywhere. The black variety contains blood, not bad actually, but I felt a little squeamish about eating it.
When you are in Dublin, make sure that you dine at the Hot Stove restaurant – elegant food, gracious service, and lovely decor. One of the best things we were served was an amuse-bouche consisting of a tiny cup of watermelon gazpacho – sweet, savory, a touch of smokiness, and ice cold! What a treat. I am working on getting the recipe. The restaurant is around the corner from the beautiful Gate Theater. Dinner at the Hot Stove, and a fine theater production would make for a memorable evening in Dublin.
Ireland’s prosperity and abundant fine food is a joy to experience, however it has not always been so. The Great Hunger was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. A potato disease commonly known as potato blight, which ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, impacted Ireland disproportionately, as one third of the population was dependent on the potato for a range of political, social, and economic reasons. Approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland in the great diaspora. Perhaps nothing better describes the fear and misery of that time better than Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie’s moving work Famine.