I’m a natural red-head, but I’m not Irish (actually, I’m 100% 3rd generation Lithuanian). Still, I was thrilled to be invited to speak about how to keep your energy up (did I tell you I’m writing a book on this topic?) to a group of Johnson & Johnson employees this past week in Cork, Ireland. Being my first visit to the Emerald Isle, I arrived four days early for a self-learned crash course on Irish foods.
And, boy, did I learn a lot! Over the next few blogs, I’ll be featuring some of the highlights. But since most of us begin our day with breakfast, let me share with you about Irish Breakfasts.
Like in the fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, porridge is often eaten for breakfast – and it’s “just right”. Porridge is “oatmeal” to people like me in the United States (oh, BTW, they refer to the United States as “America”). The difference is that porridge is often made with milk (while here in America it’s usually water) – and, oh, I loved that! That’s how I make it at home. Porridge was often served with honey or some yummy fruit compote (like rhubarb). In fact, rhubarb was commonly served in their desserts, too. And, in the Poison Garden
at the infamous Blarney Castle, I learned that while rhubarb stalks (they look like reddish tinted celery sticks) are edible, the leaves are poisonous!
I tried the traditional Irish Breakfast (guidebooks and previous visitors to Ireland told me this was a must!) a few times. It consists of eggs, bacon (different than our fatty strips of bacon…it’s more like thin slices of fatty ham), sausage (mostly 3” hot dog-width sausage links with a completely different flavor than here in the states), beans (think Boston Baked Beans with small white beans), broiled tomato halves, sautéed mushroom tops (different than what I’m accustomed to…about 3” across), toast (what looked like sourdough bread or some brown Irish soda bread), and black or white pudding.
Now, black or white “pudding” is not the milk-based dessert you might be thinking of. The Irish make a thick sausage link out of oatmeal and animal-based products. The black pudding consists of mainly oatmeal, beef or pork, and pigs (or cow’s) blood, while the white pudding is mostly pork and oatmeal. I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming blog because I found this product (the ingredients, process, and how restaurant’s brag about theirs being the best) most fascinating.
John ordered coffee for breakfast. But even if it was an “Americano coffee”, it wasn’t what he was used to. And it’s probably because he drinks only decaf (even for breakfast). We discovered that most restaurants don’t have brewed decaf, only instant coffee. I’m guessing that few people drink decaf coffee. And, this was found to be true even in the evening times.
And, for the non-coffee drinker like me, I’m happy to say that when I ordered Diet Coke with breakfast, no one looked shocked; it was always available. Like most places outside of the US, they often served a bottle or can with just a couple of ice cubes, but were happy to give me more ice when I asked (those ice-hungry Americans! LOL). Their Diet Coke is sweetened with both acesulfame K and aspartame (whereas the bottle in my Florida home notes just aspartame as the sweetener). But the taste appeared to be the same. Last time I was in Europe (Spain), Coca Coca Light was served instead of Diet Coke – and it lacked the taste I was familiar with. Most small grocery stores and convenience stores in Dublin also sold bottles in their fridge but I found the temperature to be warmer than what I’m used to (the train from Dublin to Cork sold cans of only slightly chilled cans and NO ICE). So I have to admit that, a couple of times, I broke my rule (“I will not go to any American chain restaurants while in Ireland”) and bought a “real” Diet Coke at Burger King (where a small size costs 1.75 Euros…or $2.32!).
Look for future blogs about my recent trip to Ireland. Jo