Sunday 25 January 2015


We are down in Cork this weekend to visit Dau.II and see if The Real Capital is really the gastronomic centre of Ireland or if they should cede that, along with everything else, to Dublin.  The population of Dublin is now about 5 times larger than Cork and so has great Harry Potter winner-takes-all Total Eclipse potential.  We drifted into town on Saturday morning to check out, not for the first time, the famous English Market which was visited by Mrs. Windsor, the Head of State of the island next door in 2011.  There is much to be said for this institution - it is still, amid some pretty high-falutin' delicatessen, a genuine market where ordinary people go to do their weekly shop especially that part of which involves meat and vegetables. It is the only place in Ireland that you can regularly have choice in the matter of awfully good offal
  • tripe, the washed lining of the stomach, is absolutely standard fare, in umpteen variations, on menus in Portuguese cafes and restaurants but is foreign to most Irish larders
  • drisheen, a variety of blood pudding, is claimed to originate from Cork but is nowadays only of minority interest in Cork or anywhere else in the country for that matter
  • crubeens, pig's trotters, are greatly relished by The Beloved's mother who prefers to wrastle with her food but is more or less universally rejected by anyone under the age of 50: the pale things look altogether too biological
  • pork bodice are spare ribs in a long rack and rarely seen outside a Chinese take-away
  • ox-tail which makes such exceedingly good stews because long boiling works tasty miracles on the connective and nervous tissue of the diminishing run of vertebrae - but it looks too much like anatomy for most modern tastes
I'm sorry to say we avoided all these challenges and bought some excellent olives served up from a barrel with a big wooden ladle; two balls of delicate mozzarella; a sesame seed loaf, a handful of neat dolmades ντολμάδες; some hommous and a little pastry au choix for everyone in the party (in case we didn't have enough to eat!).  Then we went home and made an excellent lunch from our multinational fare.  Yum Yum.

But today is Burns Night the birthday of Rabbie Burns the poet of Scotland.  Just as Poles, Greeks and especially Montserratians wear a green tee-shirt on St Patrick's day, a lot of people with only  a tenuous connexion with Scotland will try a morsel of haggis on this day in late January.  Haggis is made from the 'pluck' [heart-liver-lungs] of  a sheep minced and mixed with oatmeal, onions, suet, salt&pepper and stuffed into a stomach, preferably of the same sheep. Genuine versions of this dish are disconcertingly biological with strings tying off the base of the oesophagus and the pyloric sphincter at the other end.  But it is tastey enough and traditionally served with plain potatoes and boiled turnips "neeps & tatties"  . . . and single-malt whiskey.  We can't say fairer than Rab Burns:
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
Offally good!

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