There are people who are not very interested in food. A friend of mine in grad school used to eat cup o’ noodles every single day for lunch, and it was clear to me that food, to her, was merely sustenance. There was no pleasure taken in the eating of it, no disgust with too much sodium, no boredom with eating the same thing day after day. The truth was, I think she barely noticed what went into her mouth, and though I pitied her, I was also envious. If I stopped thinking so much about what to eat and when, or how to find the perfect lunch, or fondly remembering the perfect dinner, think how much brain space I would have for other things! Also, nota bene, she was skinny.
The past two weeks I spent in Ireland, and I discovered a nation of cup o’ noodles eaters. When I went to eat in Dublin, I checked two different guidebooks, and the paucity of food recommendations was my first clue that, although a pretty cool city, Dublin is not a place you go to for the food. Things I ate a lot of in Ireland: bacon, sausage, mayonnaise, scones, brown bread, chips and crisps. For two weeks I was hard-pressed to find a vegetable. Chicken curry was served with rice and chips (that’s French fries). It was like “side of vegetables” was never invented. A side salad could be found with some searching, but it was iceberg lettuce with a tomato wedge, some canned corn and “salad cream” on top. Once, my salad had olive oil AND salad cream. One salad, two forms of fat. Very efficient.
But enough negativity; let me mention the few fabulous things I did find. And let me also say that Ireland is a lovely country, full of friendly people, beautiful countryside and amazing history.
1. Sheridan cheese mongers. Right off of Grafton street, in Dublin, this place was a small haven, filled with wheels of cheese from all over the world. I asked a saleswoman to help me with some local Irish cheeses. She guided me through a tasting, based on my likes and dislikes, and I left the store with three wedges of excellent cheese, and a recommendation for a nearby bakery. With cheese that good, why was I having such bad food experiences?
2. La Maison de Gourmets. This French bakery, on Castle Market, was the bakery to which I was directed. I sought it out hoping to find the best scones in the city but discovered when I got there that it was—as the name suggested—strictly French. I bought a traditional boule and an almond croissant, and both were excellent.
3. Angela’s Coffee Emporium. In Clonmel, a small rural city, I struggled mightily with finding decent food. I found it finally here, at Angela’s, an organic sandwich and coffee bar where I could rely on getting good cappucinos, very good scones, and even (gasp!) fruit salad.
Rather than focusing on the worst sandwich ever made, at “The Gourmet Store” in Kilkenny, or the kebab in Dun Laoghire that gave me food poisoning, I will remember those cheeses, goat’s milk-tangy, richly cheddared….