Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving in Ireland

I may have mentioned that I live near Plymouth, Massachusetts. Yes, that place where Thanksgiving began. Recent archeology seems to have pinpointed exactly where the first settlement was located—where those poor cold and hungry settlers were struggling to survive, with a little help from the local Indians.

But right now I’m not at home, I’m in Ireland. This is a nice time to travel to Ireland, since it’s not too crowded and not too cold. And this year I’m setting up my own cottage (including the kitchen), which is a real thrill.

I’ve been visiting Ireland since 1998, and it grabbed hold of me then and never let go. Now I own a half-acre piece of it, in sight of where my great-grandparents were married, and where the bride’s family, the O’Regans, had lived for generations. I can see the church steeple from my land. Rather than braving a new and unknown land, I’m taking back a bit of the old country.

But this is a food blog, right? Let me say up front: Irish food is great. That wasn’t true when I first visited, when watery stew with lots of potatoes and carrots was all too common. Now it will stand up to anyone’s cuisine. I’m not talking about fancy white-tablecloth places, I’m talking about little storefront restaurants with a couple of hardworking women turning out simple tasty and creative dishes (I promise I’ll share one of those with you soon).

Here's one good example, from the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen: a warm steak salad.
The steak was sauted with coconut milk, soy sauce and red chiles and served on "mixed leaves"
(don't you love it?)

I’m madly in love with the Skibbereen weekly farmers’ market—I plan my visits to include at least one Saturday there. The local supermarket Fields is also terrific, with fresh game, and bread baked daily, and an amazing array of cakes (the Irish do seem to love their sweets—maybe that’s where I get it).

Freshly-baked bread
From the farmers' market: on the left,
goat cheese with fresh herbs; on the right,
gubbeen ( a local specialty)

Yes, that thing at the bottom left is a rabbit
I passed.
But I had to have the pheasant.

But I can’t give you a recipe right now because I’m still getting to know my kitchen. The appliances all work, but they’re tiny by U.S. standards (no way an American turkey would fit in that oven!). We’re still scrubbing and sanding and filling and sorting and so on, and we’re lucky if we can even see a countertop. I’m also still buying all the “essential” cooking tools. Give me a few more days and it will be ready to roll.

It's coming along. At least all the
appliances work!

In addition, I have a vintage Rayburn cooker (the Irish term for stove/oven). It dates from around 1950, so it’s probably original to the cottage. I’m hoping that as soon as I get it clean(er) and patch up a few joints, I can manage to produce something like food in it—at least a loaf of soda bread!

My Rayburn cooker, ca. 1950

I am grateful to all you followers that have read our books, which helped me find a way to reclaim a piece of my own history. Don’t worry, I’ll be headed back to Massachusetts soon, but I hope I’ll be able to get over here a few times a year. So now I have two homes, each with its own history.

Next week: a recipe! (I hope). 

Cruel Winter, the next in the County Cork Mystery Series, coming from Crooked Lane in March 2017.

Of course I'm doing research here! No snow yet, but definitely frost in the mornings.


  1. what a glorious adventure Sheila--thanks for sharing with the rest of us!

  2. I'd love to hear about your adventures in your new town and the neighbors you'l be interacting with. I'm also looking forward to the next County Cork book.

  3. It's lovely to share in your Irish adventures, Sheila -- especially the markets and the food! Thanks!

  4. Ironic that you have better shopping there than most of us have here, given the out of date idea of Irish foods.
    Enjoy for all of us.

    1. I know! But I've watched it change quickly. I remember years ago I was working in London alongside a girl who had been raised in the city. She was forced to visit relatives in Ireland and the came back disgusted that everything tasted so fresh! (This was a while ago.) I was reminded of her when I made myself a scrambled egg for lunch yesterday--wow, it really did taste different!

  5. The cover looks so different! Very pretty. Debbie L.

    1. Snow is rare in this part of Ireland but it does happen. It seems like everything shuts down until it melts, although that doesn't take long. There are few snowplows, and the school busses can't get up the lanes. So that was the inspiration for the cover.

  6. So excited for you !!!!!!! I would love to go to Ireland one day. Enjoy your new place !!!!!

    1. You should definitely visit! The weather isn't too cold or too hot), and the people are friendly and helpful. And they love to talk!

  7. I love reading about your experiences in Ireland! That's the kind of part of Ireland I want to visit. I have been to a rural area of Romania a couple of times and I definitely recommend visiting there. I'm looking forward to the latest book in the series. Thanks for writing them!

    1. My pleasure! And to think I call this all research.

  8. I'm loving your adventures.