Saturday, June 14, 2008

Delicious Ireland

I have discovered that arriving at JFK airport is something similar to having physical torture inflicted upon you; I could easily get more graphic, concerning long customs lines and aggravating people who decide to drop their 14-pound Louis Vuitton carry on onto ones (admittedly stupidly) sandaled foot, but since this blog is about food and eating, I think that it would be best not to. Anyway, I came into the airport late last night, after a severely delayed flight, with the fatigue that I imagine many travelers have felt before me, and many more will encounter in the future. Despite the long, long journey from the airport to my home, when I unlocked my door, and finally felt as though I could take a deep breath of air, I was overcome with joy. Joy that I had just spent the week in Dublin, joy that I was again in my apartment, joy that my cat wrapped herself around my legs and purred at an unprecedented decibel. And, clearly, joy that my belly had very recently been full of wondrously delicious Irish food.

Along my trip, as I walked from my hostel to the various castles and libraries and churches, I glanced at innumerable sidewalk signs with various food specials scrawled in chalk, and I became very aware that Dublin is no longer a city that cannot boast a rich culinary experience. It had been my na├»ve understanding that this was the case, and I only wish that I had had the means to more thoroughly dispel the notion. Even still, the food I ate on my vacation was positively incredible. I’m not sure where to begin; whether I should start with the steak and kidney pie, or the biscuits, or the cheeses.

Before this week, I had never experienced fresh cheese like the Irish can offer. While I was there, I found the most wonderful shop whose door displayed a sign saying that “the revolution will not be pasteurized.” I am not as witty as that author, and I have not been able to come up with a slogan as perfectly applicable. Maybe I’m awaiting some massive stomachache, but I really don’t believe so; I also believe that unpasturized cheese—the sharp cheddar I ate, specifically—is unlike anything I’ve tried on my side of the ocean before. The flavor was blunt and unapologetic, and even as it shocked my taste buds, I ate it gratefully. And the creaminess was another aspect in itself; maybe that was how cheese was meant to be tasted, as raw and authentic as though it just came from the cow. Later, for dinner, I had a plate of fresh cheese on brown bread with salad and fries (chips, of course) which was just as tasty.

Although I tried to be a thrifty traveler, one splurge was the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel I had for lunch at the end of my trip. The cream cheese was of the average variety, but the smoked salmon – well, I couldn’t have predicted something so flavorful. I hate to be redundant by stating how creamy this was, but that has been the most apt adjective I’ve been able to come up with. And unlike cheese, which one might expect to be creamy, I know that I was not anticipating the same for my smoked salmon. But it was, with such a velvety texture that I had to pause. This was simply not akin to the smoked salmon I’ve had in America.

Another treat that I experienced was of the sweet variety (of course, I could not leave the country without trying its pastries). A bakery near my hostel displayed for me, each morning as I walked by, a baking sheet of biscuit topped with chocolate. Now, this is a simple enough dessert, and perhaps the only reason that I bought a total of five of them throughout my stay was its transoceanic quality. If that’s the case, I’m totally fine with it. But its simplicity truly made it stand out to me, and I’m just happy to have eaten such a crumbly and chocolately dessert – much like the cheese I ate, there was nothing over the top about it, and I found myself enjoying it all the more for it. With raisins, it’s called a 'Tiffin' slice.

As I had mentioned before, Ireland is a country that is quickly growing in its culinary prowess. Though there are many, many things that I can now recommend to the Dublin traveler, I’m happy to state that the food ranks quite high on this list. I would even say that you really ought to try the steak and kidney pie, if only the one time – just because you’re in Ireland.

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