Saturday, 10 August 2013

Rissoles

I was driving back from the south coast late last Tuesday and found myself listening to a programme on the wireless about Wexford Rissoles (!).  We live 40 minutes from Wexford town, and used to go there every week for the girls' drama classes with the Red Moon Theatre group  but I'd never heard of this dish.  Seemingly, it originated when the chipper had cooked too many chips, s/he would squidge them all up together with herbs&spices, sqeeeze them into lumps the size of a child's fist. and re-fry them for sale the next day either breaded or battered.  You can hear the whole 12 minutes here as an RTE podcast http://url.ie/igdn (starts at 4.45 minutes), but get there quick, because they don't leave their audio available forever.  I'm still not % sure that it's not a hoax or a spoof.

I guess what surprised me was that, given so few regional/local food in Ireland and the generally impoverished nature of  Irish cooking, this interesting quirk should exist right under my nose and I would have been unaware of it. We are after all a very long way from General de Gaulle's quip about France "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?".  From 1922-1992 there were precisely two sorts of cheese that were generally available in Ireland: red and white.  When pushed to it the only other example of local food that springs to mind is the Waterford blaa - a fluffy bread roll that can only be found in Waterford.
Some people will make a claim for the Ulster Fry, but that is essentially the same as the great British breakfast except that a) everything is cooked in lard b) potato farls should be present which you're unlikely to find on the plate in a B&B in Waterford or Wolverhampton.  Others will maintain that a) drisheen is different from black-pudding and b) it is particularly associated with Cork - but both parts of that claim are questionable.

Which is really only to give me an excuse to re-tell the most improper joke that my father shared with my twin sister and me over lunch when we were about 13.  For reasons lost in the mists of time, the three of us were in an Italian  restaurant in Whitstable.  The Da must have had a couple of glasses of chianti to let his sense of propriety crumble to such an extent:

War-time, Rationing, Blackout. 
After much drink while on leave in London, two Naval Officers needing some solid sustenance find themselves in a cheap restaurant.  One of them winks at his pal, points to the ill-typed menu and says to the waitress:
“I don’t know about my friend here, but I’ll have an order of these Pissoles”. 
His companion interjects: “No, No, Rodney, I think you’ll find that’s an ‘R’.”

“In that case, I’ll have an order of Arsoles, miss”

It was a strange and memorable experience to be laughing like a drain while simultaneously picking my jaw off the pink table-cloth.  The Da spent the next thirty years denying that anything remotely like that had ever happened.  Could well have been more than two glasses of chianti then; although I remember him finding the car and driving us away somewhere else after lunch - but you could do that in those distant days.


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