Now time for April.
Nearly every Tuesday, a small varying group of Leesiders meets at Electric on South Mall to talk, drink coffee and Tweet.
All this grew from an exchange on Twitter among locals a few years ago and now is one of the most established casual meet ups in town. It started at Cafe Gusto on Lapps Quay but as numbers increased and winter got colder, we moved to Electric’s downstairs area.
No attendance is kept. The night before, Twitter lights up with the hash tag #TweetMeetTues as discussions occur on who may be there. Regulars tag other regulars to ask specifically and often it coincides with in-town appointments.
Some weeks, it is very quiet. Other weeks, it is lively. No matter how many people show up, the coffee is always hot and the conversation is beyond 140 characters.
After reading Dianne Jacob’s post about food bloggers being pushovers (or not), I want to state clearly that even though I eat at Fenn’s Quay and Electric at least once a week, Tweet/blog about my visits there, am friends with Kate (something that happened after I wrote my TripAdvisor review) and know Ernest and Dennis, I do not receive any freebies or benefits that are not also given to other customers. Every so often, I get a free tea or hot chocolate as a random act of kindness to a group of people or customers, but this is not timed or in association with any action on my part. I have never ever been asked to write a post or review about either place. Below, I am listing what I like about each place.
Fenn’s Quay (owner: Kate Lawlor), Sheares Street, Cork City Centre
Why the love?
1) The specials change daily and feature seasonal ingredients so it doesn’t get boring. But popular standards are always on their main menu. All at reasonable prices.
2) It is walking distance from my home, so it’s convenient.
3) The staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgable.
4) The food is delicious, using quality local ingredients.
5) The restaurant is clean with aubergine velvet banquet seating and chairs that feel elegant even though it’s a casual spot.
6) Ever since day one, my baby boy has received a warm welcome there and they make it easy to dine out with a little one. I am a sucker for a kid-friendly restaurant that isn’t geared toward children (ie, no frozen chicken fingers on the menu or plastic cups for everyone to drink from).
7) Free coffee refills.
8) Open from 8:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. That’s three meals a day, six days a week!
9) Comfortable and warm. A very important attribute in rainy Cork.
Electric Bar (owner: Ernest Cantillon), South Mall, Cork City Centre
Why the love?
1) Simple but creative sandwiches and soups after Noon for reasonable prices.
2) It is walking distance from my home, so it’s convenient.
3) The staff are friendly and welcoming to my baby boy, LB.
4) There is a changing table in the handicapped restroom. Though it took me over six months of motherhood to discover that (I never asked).
5) It is clean with great natural light streaming in the windows.
6) They carry Australian non-alcoholic ginger beer and pitchers of water with different sliced citrus or fresh mint.
7) Welcoming to my knitting group. Knitters are the like the skateboarders of the craft world. We are too busy knitting to order lots of food and drink so not a real money-maker for wherever we meet.
8) Sometimes there is a little taster of biscotti with my hot chocolate and it’s such a treat. Not always there as it is not listed as part of the hot chocolate on the menu, so a nice surprise.
So, there you have the details on why I eat where I do. Now, there’s no need to doubt the sincerity of my posts and enthusiasm for Fenn’s Quay and Electric. I go to these places with regularity and love them without any compensation, freebies, bribery, brown envelopes or begging. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?
It’s funny how I get busy with projects and baby and life and almost forget I am a foreigner in a strange land until one day I stroll out of one of my usual haunts and get the usual, “Oh isn’t he a handsome baby!” and how big he’ll be when he grows up. To which I almost always respond, “Yes, his father is quite tall. We’re just not sure if the little Cork man will do Munster Rugby or GAA yet.” (with a humorous tone in my voice, of course). Almost everyone continues to dote on the little man. Taxi drivers usually respond with their true opinion, like “Munster Rugby. Then he’ll get paid.” or “My local GAA would love the little fella. I’ll write down the name for ye.” Then the other mothers say things like, “Oh, don’t wish him grown too fast. It happens so quickly.” (Don’t I know it!).
But this one occasion I received a completely different response than I have ever heard before. “He’s not a Cork man. He has American parents. He’s American. He’s not from Cork. Why would he be from Cork with American parents?” She wasn’t angry or arguing about it either, completely calm and curious how I reached such a silly conclusion as to think my son was a “Cork man.” At this point, I was stung. The place I now call home and have lived in for over four years (since moving here in 2008) was disowning my son. Sure, anyone can be American because we’re made up of every country, every culture and every faith (and non-faith) but the truth still hurts sometimes when I remember it doesn’t work in reverse.
Almost anywhere you go in the world, if you tell a local about your roots there, the statement will be met with warmth, curiosity and, sometimes even, enthusiasm. Ireland is no different. Though anyone with any Irish ancestry in American calls themselves “Irish”, over here in Ireland “Irish” means being born and raised here. There is a nuance and specifics I haven’t figured out but that’s the gist of it. Sure, I have a name with Irish-ness and I know all about local things and can say a few words in Irish, but I am a foreigner. I am an American. Just like thousands of other Americans, I have ancestors who left Ireland with family in the famine and boarded a ship for a new start, brimming with hope. Sure, in the States I’d be considered “Irish” because of that. Here, I’m an American… with Irish roots.
To be “Irish” in Ireland isn’t to step dance, drink Guinness and get wasted on Saint Patrick’s Day (by the way, don’t even think of calling it “P Day” in my presence). No, that’s one American interpretation. Here, it is just what it is. It’s daily life. And even though the Irish here have survived the Famine, the Troubles and the Celtic Tiger losing its stripes, that part of Irish culture is overlooked so often by Americans in favor of the stereotype. And to walk back into Ireland and say “Hey, I’m Irish too!” overlooks the decades of oppression, adversity and turmoil those who never left have lived with and thrived in spite of. Yet, it’s a pint of Guinness that is the focal point for many tourists, thinking that’s what life is like here for the Irish. Not that the stereotype isn’t true, but just like anywhere it’s not a standard. In my experience, at least. I have met TWO people who do Irish step dancing since moving here (not counting these ladies). I knew dozens in the States. Guinness is ordered occasionally by my friends but usually it’s a local craft brew that’s favored or even Beamish, Murphy’s, Bulmer’s or… Budweiser (don’t ask, I still can’t figure out its popularity). And getting wasted on Saint Patrick’s Day is a personal choice but let me just say that since being here I’ve seen more drunk people on the student night out in town than on Saint Patrick’s night.I don’t want to crush any American dreams (only one-sixth of this blog’s readers are in the States) of leprechauns and rainbows, but the Ireland I know is rich in a phenomenal food production and culture, amazing compassion and political awareness, acute understanding of global issues, and the sense that a cup of tea and a chat can cure anything. That’s the Ireland I fell in love with.
Yet, here is one of the people who also lives in my adopted hometown telling me the little human I nurtured for ten months with local ingredients and visits to CUMH is not a Cork man. The baby that while in my belly listened to jazz music and enjoyed a spiced beef omelet at last year’s festival and went to Bantry for lunch because I was craving tartar sauce. Many mornings, I would do my English Market run when it first opened with producers setting up and a peaceful feeling like the curtain was about to rise on one of the most delicious productions I know. It’s magical and each stall holds a promise of culinary adventure. My ever-growing belly along for the visit. Back then Óg, as he was known, was with me when I waddled to Tweet Meet Tuesday on the day I went into labor and each Tuesday before that. He was along when I went to my knitting group and non-fiction writing group. He listening to all the conversations and enjoyed all the meals, including the Cork Gourmet Trail, Cork Culture Night at English Market, Good Food Ireland events and Cornstore evening. He got to know his new home without setting sight on it and since then he was joined me for little adventures. But there I was with LB that day, thinking that as much as Cork feels like home to me, it may not feel that way about me. It was a sad thought I had only had twice since moving here. So, I told the lady how my son was born here after we’ve lived here for a several years. Still no dice. Whatever. I said a polite wish for her to have a nice day and went about my own day. You can’t change anyone’s mind unless he or she wants it to (or lets it) be changed. I wouldn’t have argued with her about politics or religion, after all.
This was weeks ago, I write this after the sick feeling in my stomach has passed. I still feel un-home though. How weird is that? I go to the English Market for my groceries. I stand in the same hellish queues at Tesco. I get taxed at the same high rate as everyone else here. But I’ll always be a blow-in. I understood that in California and didn’t mind, because I didn’t feel completely at-home there. It isn’t a concept I understood growing up though. In Washington, D.C. there are some natives (not many beyond one or two generations) but everyone else left their homeland or hometown to come to a political hub where every single country is represented. And it’s not that you just see them in a suit at a big meeting like the U.N., they live there. Ambassadors, diplomats, Congressional staff, interns, political experts and their families rotate through Washington, making it their home just like the natives. It changes the city’s personality, dynamic and economy and it happens every time there is an election. D.C. is organic and living with the new life and fresh perspectives arriving, hoping to change the world then leaving having done their best in spite of the traffic circles, muckrakers and political obstacles to policy making. It is a world away from Ireland. Cork is different. In the end, I must remember that we are expats and have a unique perspective of being from one place but having our hearts belong to another. It’s a blessing and a confusing twisted love triangle all at the same time.
No caravan and no trip to the Canaries, but we enjoyed an Irish summer vacation this year. We went to West Cork and it was foggy and rainy the entire time! Thank goodness we don’t mind the weather but really wishing I had Welly boots that fit in my purse! I’ll try to write more about the trip in the future but in the meantime, here are a few photos of Baltimore and Cape Clear Island.
Yep, check out that soft gray horizon into which you can gaze for minutes upon minutes. All kidding aside, the crab sandwich I ate on Cape Clear Island was worth the entire trip! Not to mention an amazing meal at Roulf’s in Baltimore. But that’ll be in a real blog post eventually.
The other night (28 Aug 2012) in the midst of a bad summer cold, I noticed a friend used the hashtag
#FoodSingers so I clicked on it to see what it was about. Sure enough, people were Tweeting variations of singers and band names that included food. Food and music? I’m in! Here’s what I came up with (under each Tweet, I’ve added the original singer’s/band’s name in italics)…
Sure, I lost about seven followers on Twitter because my Tweets were entirely #FoodSingers related but it was fun given I’ve spent the week at home sick. Next time, I’ll definitely Tweet a warning that I am about to Tweet about #FoodSingers and that it’ll all be over in a couple hours.
Before moving to Ireland, I watched a couple episodes of Father Ted. It was entertaining, but not hilarious as I had heard a few Irish acquaintances rave. Oh well, not all cult favorites are funny to everyone, right? After living in Ireland for a few months I gave it another try and I was laughing so hard I started crying and actually rolled off the sofa onto the floor! Same goes for Black Books, actually.
For those readers in the U.S., Father Ted is a television series captures quirks, humor, and hilarity that seems to be uniquely Irish – or I would have ‘gotten’ the humor back in the States. And some of the lines from Father Ted have seeped into every facet of culture and conversation. Just yesterday, I was having tea with someone and she commented ‘Down with that sort of thing.’
If you fancy yourself Irish or feel you understand Irish culture and have not seen Father Ted, go on and buy it already. Go on. Go on. Go on. Available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and just about any decent DVD shop in Ireland. It may even be streaming online somewhere like 4oD or RTE.
*Describe yourself in 7 words:
Nice. Resourceful. Creative. Wife. Mother. Daughter. Aunt.
*What keeps you up at night?
My son, LB.
*Whom would you like to be?
*What am I wearing right now?
Old comfy jeans with a red camisole under a coral airy-knit sweater my Mom gave me. Little sterling silver and pearl earrings from ESDesigns. Bare feet.
*What scares you?
Outer space. Zombies. Clowns. Global warming. People with unresolved anger or insecurities taking that out on others, especially those who cannot protect themselves (like children and animals). That the openness fostered by reality television and social media will create a society that expects people to give up privacy to indulge in someone else’s sense of curiosity or narcissism. Weird odors in my fridge. Basically, my idea of a horror movie would be clown zombies that descend from outer space to hasten global warming, be mean, direct reality tv shows and hide smelly things in fridges.
*What are the best and worst things about blogging?
Best: Sharing my passion for living in Ireland, knitting/sewing, and cooking with others – and discovering a community that shares those passions as well.
Worst: Not knowing if I am making a positive difference in the world except through blog analytics/statistics.
*If I could change one thing about myself, what would it be?
Even after four years of braces, I have one tooth that is a little crooked. Also, I wish I could read/knit in a moving car without getting all headachy and carsick.
*Slankets, yes or no?
Not for me.
*Tell us something about the person who nominated you.
Natasha and I met last autumn when I was quite pregnant. We both had meetings in the same place and sat and visited. I admire her sense of style and ability to put things together in a fabulously unexpected way. Her enthusiasm for hair styling is just one facet of her skills and awesomeness. I’m delighted to know her!
My next step in this award is to nominate 10 others…Here we go…I’ve made the nominations on the basis that I feel they are simply wonderful and inspiring blogs with much diversity and love instilled. I excluded any ‘famous’ blogs because I didn’t think they’d have time to respond with their own post. I also excluded any of my own blogs, even though I probably have ten more. *Hangs head in serial blogger shame* I also omitted any friends who haven’t posted to their blogs in six or more months because they probably have a lot going on in their real lives.
There are so many brilliant blogs to choose from but I always find myself sneaking a latest peek at the latest posts of these friends: