By Roisin O’Sullivan
“Deedle, deedle die potatoes…” In ways Ireland is one of the most stereotyped countries in the world. Many media images are all about Guinness, potatoes and small men in green three-piece suits who have lost their pots of gold. Yet no-one eats Lucky Charms in Ireland and if they did they certainly wouldn’t mix them with Guinness. Everyone knows it’s a wee drab of whiskey that’s best for teething children.
But it’s true that Irish food is the stuff of legends. There’s the traditional Irish stew – carrots, potatoes and juicy beef chops drowned in rich gravy are the perfect answer to those cold Irish evenings and an accomanying hot whiskey toddy (warm whiskey with cloves and lemon) is sure to drive the cold from your bones. In my house we eat a roast two or three times a week – mashed potatoes with mountains of butter are a constant with a surprise appearance from boiled bacon and cabbage, roast chicken and veggies or roast beef and gravy. The famine didn’t scare us off potatoes for good you see.
Traditional Irish food is all about warm fires on cold evenings, good company and a pint of whatever tickles your fancy. As such, your best bet for a slice of the Ireland of yore is the pub – preferably one with a huge open fire, bicycles screwed to the walls and a bartender that squints with one eye and seems to speak only yiddish.
In Dublin a firm favourite is battered fish and chips – best bought in Howth (Dublin) and eaten along the pier with only a bracing wind and seagulls for company. Or for more sophisticated seafood try to get your hands on some famous Dublin Bay oysters or spend a sunny afternoon devouring prawns and white wine in one of Galway city’s beautiful alfresco cafés. For self-caterers, most cities have their own farmer’s market where veggies are sold still covered in mud and the beef is sensational. Not to mention all the tarts, jams and cheeses that can be sampled and smuggled out of the country in your hold-all. The Sunday market in People’s Park, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin is one such gem.
After a night of indulgence in one of our lively pubs, the only cure is a big Irish breakfast. Sausages, rashers, beans, fried potatoes, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes, black and white pudding, a side of toast and a bucket of tea are sure to set you up for the day and will leave a lingering sense of satisfaction long after you have managed to close your belt again.
Ireland of today is an incredibly multi-cultural place. You can tuck into Chinese, Malaysian, African, Indian and mainland European dishes here the same as any western city but for a real taste of culture, it’s best to get back to basics. If you are coming to Ireland to eat and drink you had best bring clothes with elastic waistbands, your best banter and the biggest appetite you can muster. And remember – if it’s good, it’s better with butter.
Roisin O’Sullivan is an Irish travel journalist. More of her work can be seen at yearlongbreakup.wordpress.com