March 16-22, 2006
Eats : FoodTrue Irish
Letter From Galway
On the plane, the stewardess asked if I'd like a bottle of Guinness. At 6 in the morning?
Um ... no thanks.
I was proving to be a poor advertisement for me nation.
Milwaukee was up to its arse in snow and I knew in Ireland, in me hometown of Galway, they were having spring weather.
After a reading, we went to ... yup, the pub. And the customers, alerted to me arrival, had lined up shots of Jameson and green Guinness. It's a complete mystery to us in Ireland how you could desecrate a pint with green dye. Are ye stone mad and we do know ye mean well but god almighty.
Then friends of mine laid on a party that would put the Irish to shame, mountains of delicious food and not a green cabbage in sight and no spuds or bacon but a choice of every other dish you've ever longed for and as they knew I was coming, a crate of Jameson. I kid you not.
In Ireland, we'd be supplying pots of tea and soda bread.
I rang home before hitting me bed and asked the family what they had for their St. Patrick's Day dinner. I hate to smash myths and folklore, but what they had was typical of the new rich international Ireland:
My teenage daughter had fries and a Big Mac.
I know I should lie, I owe it to the Irish Tourist Board, and say they had
Stew, with spuds and bacon
Custard and rhubarb.
In hope of rescuing the old lore, I asked if they watched The Chieftains, but alas, my wife watched Dr. Phil and my daughter watched The O.C.
Desperate now for a touch of the past, I asked my wife if the parade had bodhrans, Uilleann pipes, spoons and jig 'n' reels.
She asked how much Jameson I'd had.
On the plane the next day to Boulder, I read in the newspaper of an American journalist who approached a man in an Aran sweater, on Grafton Street, believing he'd found a real Irishman and was told the man had arrived two days ago from Bosnia.
I began to sing the opening lines of "Galway Bay."
Ken Bruen is the award-winning author of The Dramatist (St. Martin's Minotaur) and editor of Dublin Noir (Akashic).