In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Amy and I plan check out the Irish pub in town for the first time tonight.  We’ve generally avoided going to Irish pubs outside Ireland because we fear they won’t really be much like the real thing.  Sometimes it can be easy to tell when the pub owners really don’t have a clue, such as with the pub in Madrid that had a nice window display on Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Instead of going to a pub we could cook ourselves an Irish meal, but just what would that be?  I just read  Francis Lam’s article “St. Patrick’s Day controversy:  Is corned beef and cabbage Irish?” and the article makes clear some things we already knew:  corned beef really isn’t so much Irish as Irish-American, and food is not central to Irish culture.  When we lived in Cork, we were rarely invited to people’s homes for dinner and instead socialized in pubs.  We were invited to the house of our friends Denise and Michael for an Irish meal once, and it consisted of bacon (Americans would probably call it boiled ham), potatoes, cabbage, boiled turnips, and mushy peas.  The food was great, the boiled turnips surprisingly so, though I don’t think I’ll ever be a great fan of mushy peas.  There was no corned beef to be seen.

Food plays a much more central role here in Mexico.  During our Mexican cooking class, our Spanish-language teacher, Eli, said that the women who would be teaching us cooked in the same way as he remembered from his childhood, with love.  The cooks here really do seem to care more about the food they make, and how it’s accepted.  Last night, we went out to eat and Amy left a little soup in her bowl while I left a few scraps on my plate.  The cook came out and asked us if everything was okay, and seemed a bit concerned that we hadn’t eaten every last bite.  We know how to say we’re full in Spanish, which is useful, because cooks seem almost hurt if food is left on the plate.  This was even more true in Mexico City.

In Ireland it was nearly impossible to go to a restaurant that served “Irish food,” though many pubs had a carvery lunch on Sundays, which seemed to consist of a meat and two veg, usually boiled.  In Mexico, most of the restaurants serve Mexican food, and we eat at our favorite taqueria two or sometimes even three times a week.  That’s as it should be, though – gringas de pastor beat mushy peas any day of the week.

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