The bulk of this journey I have found myself in Ireland. Perhaps it was the comfort I took in familiar views, Ireland reminding me of the hills of home. Perhaps it was the friendliness of strangers met in Ireland, the hospitality shared and the endless
amounts of craic (good times) to be found. The ancient history, the beautiful landscapes, the endearing people, the simple living; all but only made it a comfortable place. Times were not without a bit of strife and even in a beautiful land, scoundrels and disappointment are never far away. A beautiful land of struggle and endurance for a people who have overcome thousands of years of invasion and pillaging from the Vikings to the English and are still struggling to hold on to their traditions of language and arts, to their economic well being and independence from the smothering EU as well as national leadership and their debilitating regulating, and more importantly hanging on to themselves and regaining that inner strength and loyalty that seems to be clouded by their disillusioned sights of ‘greener grass’ and their learned behavior of passive aggressiveness. But it is coming, their retaking of what belongs to them, their traditional identity and pride, and of looking no further than whats already in front of them and making it the best possible.
As far as culinary exploration goes on the surface one may think Ireland has a limited offering. The Irish table never seems short of cabbage, bacon, chips and brown bread and become dull dining habits in most households…which is tiring to an adventurous palette. But if one looks closer, Ireland does offer boundless supplies of
delicious grass-fed meats with no hormones, remote harbors with amazing fresh from the sea offerings, roadside garden stalls, country markets with cheeses and butter on occasion surpassing those found in France and fresh creamy stout Guinness like no one else can. One culinary movement which is sweeping Ireland is what I like to call Epicurean Entrepreneurialism: foodies taking their culinary love to the level of passion and turning it into a profit. You have to look only as far as the neighboring village to find
a weekend country market held in the parish hall or on the square, and many large towns have extensive spaces with twice a week offerings from not only home based foodies but long established brick & mortar businesses reaching out to expand their customer following. Markets such as the H2G Market (Honest2Goodness Market) has found an enormous success being established in an unlikely location, an industrial park in Glasnevin, north side Dublin. This family run venture has succeeded by not only positioning
themselves in the middle of suburbia but more importantly has organized stall vendors offering the finest in Irish artisan breads, meats, and cheeses as well as cakes, candies, jams, veg and dairy. They have an on site cafe as well as numerous food vendors with organic and gluten free selections and their pantry shop and wine stall have hard to find, high quality and affordable prices. This kind of organic capitalism is happening from Dublin to Cork to Galway to Westport and every little village in between. From weekly farmers market, or a family owned bistro with a locally sourced menu, the gun clubs annual wildgame potluck night at the local pub, one of hundreds of food or drink festivals, regional food circles hosting tasting tours, a charity bake sale at the GAA club, a soon-to-be famous locally produced piece of deliciousness on the corner shop’s counter display, and even the occasional social cafe where locals volunteered as chefs and baristas showcasing their foodie abilities for the sake of community. Epicurean Entrepreneurialism is everywhere in Ireland to be experienced and enjoyed if you know where to look. So have no fear this rucksack foodie did not survive on sausages and chips alone, although I consumed my fair share late nights, after pints. No there is plenty of goodness and creativity to be found in Ireland in both their people and on their tables!
Enjoy the pictorial tour of just a small portion of the Ireland I experienced over the past few months, there are so many more beautiful memories and moments in my head that I just didn’t or couldn’t capture with a camera and that you must journey to Ireland to see for yourself!