The grocer’s wife won’t have her soup and eat it.

The scene: A small village somewhere in Ireland. A street. A woman in a yellow raincoat enters the grocer’s store. She carries a heavy bag of books and a knapsack on her back ( in the knapsack there are more books). This is the reason why she is known as Miss Read On in the village and beyond. There are more sheep than people in the village and the sheep have constitutional rights. Just so you know. It is however the grocer’s wife who runs the shop and the village. Somtimes that’s the same.

It is half past six and Miss Read who looks slightly ruffled enters the grocer’s store.

Miss Read On: Evening grocer’s wife.

( Miss Read On needs potatoes, milk and baking soda. Miss Read On is not too sure if there is still raspberry jam and yoghurt in the fridge.)

The grocer’s wife: Jesus Read On, I don’t know how you are doing it.

Read On: Doing what, grocer’s wife?

Mrs G: Going up to Dublin every day.

Read On ( slightly distracted because wasn’t it the honey that she used up the other day?) Well, grocer’s wife, we all need to work somewhere.

Mrs G: It’s a mad place. People havin’ no reason. I am tellin ya.The husband and me went to do the last bits of Christmas shopping the other day and ye won’t believe me what happened. By the way got somethin’ very nice for the vet this year.

Read On: Grocer’s wife just so you know the vet won’t be here for Christmas.

The grocer’s wife however is far too agitated to launch a major complaint about the vet’s absensce- for now.

Mrs G: We’ll be talkin about that Miss Read On.

Read On: The flights are booked grocers’s wife.

Mrs G: The last word is not yet spoken on this matter. Will ye let me tellin ye what happened in Dublin, will ye?

Read On: I will grocer’s wife.

Mrs G: Jesus, I find it hard to believin it meself. So we did our shopping. Getting some really nice stuff, ye know. So I said to me husband, let’s grab a bite to eat. So off we went to a café, ye know. Meal deal, ye know needin a rhyme the Dubliners for everythin. Feelin’ like Mr Joyce himself. ( The grocer’s wife chuckles.)

So we sat down. Me sayin’ to the waitress. What soup are ye havin today? The girl said Pea soup with ham. Haven’t had pea soup for ages ye know. Me said: “We are havin’ the soup with bread and butter. Off went the girl. We’ve been waiting ye know. No bother. Finally she came with the soup, ye know. Me took a mouthful. Jeus, Read On I nearly spat the soup out. Ice cold soup, I swear on me mum. Ice-cold soup, I ma tellin ye. I said to the girl: Are ye havin no shame serving an ice-cold soup. Won’t belivin me what she said: Its our specialty, cold pea soup. We won a prize for the soup last year. Never have had single complaint. Would ye believe that Read On, would ye believe that?

Red On: Hard to believe, grocer’s wife.

Mrs G: Jesus, I’d give her a lashin’, if I had a thing to say in that café. I told her, to stop tellin me that nonsense. Will ye warm up the soup I told her, we are not havin all day to sit around, ye know. Jesus Read On, these Dublin girls don’t know how to work. Just lookin out for a fella, ye knew. It is shameful. Just lookin out for the fellas. Would ye imagine she was warmin’ up the soup in a microwave. Would ye belive that. Heatin‘ up soup in a microwave. Me sayin to the girl: Have ye forgotten what a pot is for, here in Dublin? I told her do ye not know that a soup needs to boil? Jesus, Read On, ye wouldn’t believe how she was lookin at me. Didn’t have a clue. Didn’t even know that a soup needs to boil. Imaging all the germs swimming in the soup. All these germs freely floatin’ because these Dubliners don’t know a thing. It is disgusting, I tell ye. Don’t even get me started on the ham. This was no ham, I am tellin’ ye, that was a disgrace. That’s what they are servin ye in Dublin cafés, Miss Read On. It is a shame.

Miss Read On is still unsure what to do about the raspberry preserve. Or was it the apricot preserve she used while baking the other day?

Mrs G: I am tellin ye, this was the worst lunch me ever had in me life. So the husband and I drove back home and I tellin ye, we had a scone and we had cream with the scone and we had cold meats for dinner and I am tellin ye, we won’t be back to Dublin anytime soon.

Read On: Grocer’s wife, I need six eggs as well please.

Grocer’s wife: Six eggs, sure, I’ll give ye six eggs.

Read On pays her groceries. See you, grocer’s wife.

Grocer’s wife:  Servin’cold soup. I am asking ye, will they ever stop behaving like animals up in Dublin?

I really don’t know how ye are doin it.

Surviving as a non-Pork eater in Ireland (VII)

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I don’t know. I really don’t know. When the sweet canteen lady handed this dish over to me I looked at the thing in front of me and for a moment I was lost for words. A brick with wet concrete before a last yellow leaf descended on it would make a good capture for an art exhibition in the Meatpacking district in New York, but for a dish it is rather depressing. But maybe the cook had failed selling his artworks to wealthy patrons and now strikes back? In the dull reality of my life however, it is Thursday afternoon and the thing in front of me on the plate is called a „Vegetable Enchilada.“ Who would have guessed that?  It tasted exactly like it looks: ghastly. Nevertheless for the order of things: the vegetables discovered were: onions ( plenty ), celery ( there is no dish without celery in this country ), shreds of red and green peppers, spinach ( this is at least what I think the half-brown-half dark green leaves I found were and last but not least carrots ( spring is coming ). The brick itself was covered in industrial cheese and unsalted or otherwise seasoned tomato sauce,which made things rather worse than better. But probably there is a day in life when one eats a yellowish coloured brick and definitely isn’t in an exciting exhibition but in a rather sober canteen.

What? Vegetable Enchilada

Where? The Buttery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

How much? 4 Euro

Survived? Luck always favors the brave.

Surviving in Ireland as non-pork eater ( III )

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Yesterday was a day out of a manual for nightmares. I was neither at the University nor in Dublin at all. When I brushed my teeth late at night I remembered that I had not eaten all day. So with delay but not forgotten, another attempt of mine to not eat pork in an all-pork eating environment. Today: Roasted Vegetables with mashed potatoes (instead of rice.) Well, you might say, Read On, you don’t think us you can trick us like that, don’t you? Roasted Vegetables? But I can only shrug my shoulders and repeat: Roasted Vegetables. Sometimes I wonder if in the morning the cook and his underlings gather and the cook asks:

Cook: What’s our main dish today?

Underling 1: Cook, you said either cold ham with mustard or roasted turkey.

Cook: Turkey it is, time to get a bit christmassy, isn’it? Hohooohooo.

Underlings 1 to 10: Oh no please don’t make us wear these silly hats again.  Please cook, show some mercy.

Cook ( sighs ): These stupid underlings! I am talking about the turkey! As in christmas turkey not as in empty heads underneath a hat.

Underlings 1-10: smiling in relief.

Cook: You will all wear reindeer antlers this year. No discussions. How many of you are there?

Underling 4 ( in despair ): Cook, there are eight reindeers but ten of us underlings.

Cook: Eight reindeers? I’ll be damned! Count again!!

Underling 1: Vixen

Underling 2: Blixen

Underling 3: Dasher

Underling 4: Dancer

Underling 5: Prancer

Underling 6: Donner

Underling 7: Blitzen

Underling 8: Cupid

Underling 9: Rudolph

Underling 10 stands in silence

Cook, Ha, I knew it. There were more than eight. Who said eight? Eight. Yeah. Yeah. See underlings this is the difference between me and you. I fuckin‘ know things. Eight reindeers. We think of somethin‘ for you.             ( points to Underling 10 )

( It knocks against the door )

Cook: Jesus fuckin Christ, haven’t even finished my first cuppa. What do you want?

Sweet canteen lady: Cook, we need the list with today’s dishes! 10 Minutes!

Cook: Workin‘ on it, sweet canteen lady!

( The underlings 1-10 nod in silence )

Cook: Alright then. What do we have so far?

Underling 5: Roast Turkey, cook.

Cook: That’s a good one.

Underling 8: We need to come up with something for the vegetarians.

Cook: Fuckin‘ grasseaters.

Underling 1: What vegetables do we have left over from yesterday?

Underling 3: Some mushrooms. Some 40 packages or so.

Underling 4: Green peppers from Tuesday!

Underling 7: Celery. Plenty of it.

Underling 9: The sweet canteen lady says in the pantry are plenty of tins with green peas. They have to be finished before the end of the year.

Cook ( grunts ): Good. Let’s throw them altogether.

Underling 10: But we need some sauce, cook.

Cook: What’s wrong with my turkey gravy, eh?

Underling 10: Nothing cook, I just thought…

Cook: Now he starts to think! Jesus, workin‘ with these lads. Should charge them some extra money for it.

Underling 4: Cook, how do you want to call the dish?

Cook: What’s our main dish?

Underlings 1-10: Roasted Turkey, cook.

Cook: Jesus, why are you shoutin‘ like this? I am not deaf.

Cook: Roasted vegetables. Roasted vegetables that’s fancy enough, eh?

Underling 5: But Cook, don’t you…

Cook: What are you lingering around here anyway? See the potatoes over there? All yours.

Sweet canteen lady: Cook, do you have the list with today’s dishes?

Anyway it was rather a vegetable goulash than anything else. You see as a non-pork eater in Ireland you sometimes eat a vegetable goulash while thinking its roasted vegetable or the other way around. The mashed potatoes ( with herbs! with herbs! ) were pretty tasty. The rest, well…

What? Roasted Vegetables with mashed potatoes ( instead of rice )

Where? The Buttery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

How much? 4 Euro

Survived? Yap.

 

Surviving in Ireland as a non-pork eater (II)

IMG_3766 (1)If it wouldn’t rain  pour outside constantly since 10 AM I would probably have had a soup somewhere else, but I am an approved klutz and with my talent I surely would have slipped out on the pavement and dived into a puddle. No this isn’t as funny as it might seem to you. You on the other hand would have missed today’s non-pork option in the canteen. Wouldn’t this be a pity? So here it comes: Vegetable pasta. Boring you might say, Read On, you are so boring. Well, this might look like ordinary pasta with vegetables on it ( the vegetables discovered included: carrots, peas ( it’s Ireland after all ), mushrooms, some rocket leaves, and stone-hard black olives but the whole dish was quite a bit of a mystery. First of all, it was spicy. The canteen normally praises itself in tasteless cooking. ( I by the way believe that these efforts definitely should be honoured. It is quite hard not to use spices at all, isn’t it? ) But today the pasta was spicier than anything I ever had in the canteen, ever. On the other hand the spicy sauce was definitely no pasta sauce at all. It resembled from far a base for a curry, but quite from afar. Maybe the cook had planned something else, which didn’t work out all and in a certain momentum of boldness decided to spice up our day? Who knows? Maybe the cook simply has a cold, sneezed hard and 1,2, 3 the whole spice collection of the canteen landed in the vegetarian pot? This pasta definitely left me a good bit irritated.I repeat myself but surviving in Ireland as a non-pork eater is not easy and sometimes even a bit mysterious.

What? Vegetable Pasta

Where? The Buttery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

How much? 4 Euro

Survived? Mysterioulsy, but yes.

Surviving as a non-pork eater in Ireland (I)

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Surviving as a non-pork eater in Ireland is not that easy. The Irish love pork. It truly is everywhere. Here I discovered for the first time that such things as a combined Chicken-Pork-Sandwich really does exist in reality. I wouldn’t be surprised either if there existed such things as chocolate-pork-cookies or pork-flavoured ice-cream. You easily see: the stakes for a convinced non-pork eater are high. So enter the glamorous world of Read On’s attempts to keep up the spirits while not touching pork. ( My grandmother by the way even ate liver sausage in front of a rabbi visiting her). Well, I won’t. Today’s survival ration: Red Thai Vegetable Curry with rice. The vegetables I was able to uncover were: celery ( an all-Irish classic, eggplant, red peppers, onions, green peppers and maybe a mushroom, but I am not too sure of that.) The rice was okay, but Mrs Rajasthani would smack me with a soup ladle if I would say this in front of her. No I know, it has nothing to do with curry, however it was not the worst thing ever I had in the canteen. I know how it looks. I know. I really do know.

What? Red Thai Vegetable Curry with Rice

Where? The Buttery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

How much? 4 Euro

Survived? Yep.

 

Eating like in the 80s

It was great William Faulkner, who probably would have been very unhappy about the fact that his saying “ The past is not dead. It’s not even the past now, is ubiquitous quoted everywhere. But especially for Ireland it is inevitably true and this dear reader, I do not only say this out of the midst of a very small village, where the clocks tend to tick slower as elsewhere but with a very good reason. The Irish eat as if the 1970s and 1980s were still alive and in fact here they are. When you ever crave for a chicken Kiev, please book your next flight immediately, every pub on the country roads will serve this dish containing  garlic for a lifetime with proud as well as you will find it served with piles of mashed potatoes even at Fallon and Byrne. And of course Chicken Kiev was the first dish introduced in Great Britain as a ready meal by Marks and Spencer and I swear to you, if you queue at Tesco or Supervalu you will see it in every second basket or if you make your way to my village, at the still existing grocer’s store you can have a try. And of course, dear reader you know your Faulkner much better than I did, when I came to Ireland, inviting neighbors and colleagues for a get together in my house, serving Risotto with mushrooms, a green salad containing dried tomatoes, naan- bread with hummus and lemon trifle, wondering more and more while everybody drank but nobody ate anything or even dared to try a bit of this or that. But then one of the gusts invited asked me shyly and not without blushing, if I did not have any Scotch eggs or cheese crackers? Scotch eggs, echoed I, wondering what this might be. And my vis- à vis gave me up as a totally hopeless case without any culinary understanding. In the village I live in, I am known since then as the women- who does- not- eat- pork- but- gave- us-salad- to-starve. Humm, you know what Scotch Eggs are, did I ask the grocer’s wife on the next morning, who knows everyone and everything and after a long minute of shocked silence, she told me the secret of eggs being wrapped in a sausage, coated in bread crumbs and baked. Oh dear, she said looking at me as I would be standing orphaned and alone in the world. But you dear reader, who secretly dreams of potatoes with baked- beans, waffles with bacon, sandwiches filled with tuna and corn or chicken, ham and egg- mayonnaise, grilled cheese toast and mushy peas, you will not be disappointed but warmly welcomed among us. No, you will not be starved here, tortured with couscous, carpaccio or yoghurt mousse on a variation of forest fruits, here you will be feed as if the good old times would have ever existed, parachute pants were ever stylish and Milli Vanilli could really sing. Be welcome and give my warm regards to the grocer’s wife.

A great book to leave Faulkner behind as quote deliverer and discover the great writer he has undoubtedly been, “ As I lay dying“ is a great start.