Stories of Friendship, Family, Fun and Food.
All the way from the Emerald Isle!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Did anyone say food??

There are a few things you need to know about Ireland and Food. We have a 'meat and potatoes' reputation but I gotta tell you there is some unbelievable food on this little island. Above, the sign for Blaa Dogs is the southern part of Ireland's answer to a hot dog. The Blaa is a soft roll (round in shape) and can be soft or crunchy crust. It is only made in Waterford and we are finding it impossible to get a recipe. I think you have to live there to be allowed to make it.

Above here you will see Irish Bok Choy growing quite well. They actually label it Pax Choi here, but it is the same stuff and delicious.
There is no shortage of cheese on this farming island. At every turn we see and eat our way through another bite of sheep, goat or cows milk cheese. There is a little raw milk cheese in production in the south but not a whole lot - I think Ron is thinking about trying his hand at a batch of Irish Parmesan :-)
And of course, lets not forget the fruits of the sea. We went to a lovely oyster farm and got to see the entire production in operation. Stick with me on this one as it is quite interesting.

Irish people (in general) do not eat fish. I know, this is a disgrace and I am making it my mission in life to change this statement. To be honest, we could have avoided the deaths of almost 1,000,000 people during the Potato Famine of 1845 if we had harvested from the sea.

Back to the oyster farm. Ron and I have always been lovers of this creature. So a tour to this oyster farm was high on our list of priorities. The farm we toured was at the bottom of the country in County Waterford very close to Dungarvan.

The farmer was originally a dairy farmer but the demand for oysters in the '80s was so great he converted to oyster farming. The demand I hear you say??? Yes, from the French! They buy 'seedlings' from France, raise them for 18mths to 2 years in the Irish sea, sort, grade & sell them back to France as FRENCH Oysters.
It is like we adopt them, raise them as our own, then send them back to where they came from. Only 2% of Oysters fished in IRISH seas are eating by the Irish. To be honest, that is probably not even true, as we know one of them is an American and I am sure he is not alone!

The fishermen, some Irish and some from Poland, work 6 days a week for 3 or 4 weeks in a row then get a week off. They work with the tides and the tides work with the moon. Each day, there are two tides but they only work with the morning tides - they can drive the tractors almost 3 miles out on the bay. 3 miles!!! They gather up the bags the oysters are growing in, bring them back to the plant to sort & grade them, and then put them right back on the bed of the ocean before the tide rolls back in. Here is the really interesting part - France cannot do this. It would take them 3 times as long to grow the quality of oysters we have here in Eiré because they have short tides (like 30 minutes) and have lost several tractors and lives due to this. If one of the Irish tractors went down with a load of oysters the loss would be in the range of 100,000 euros or more (Load of oysters costing upwards of 20,000 euros plus the fancy tractor).

I am getting to the end of the story which I found so interesting. During the 4th or 5th week depending on the moon there are NO TIDES, so they all get a week off. With that, we sampled the harvest of the day only to be delighted with tasting the best oyster we have ever tasted. It was undoubtedly the creamiest oyster that has ever passed these lips (and that of Ron's too) and we are still craving our trip back to the farm for another.

To finish up with, we stopped at an orchard later that day only to find it is the farm where Bulmers buys its apples. This was a pretty cool experience too and we had some apples and of course a spot of cider for the road. Thank goodness we had a bus driver to take our sleeping selves back home.

All in all, the Irish food scene is alive and kicking. People are truly into food. I do not see a whole lot of spice being thrown around but you can't have it all!

That's all the WiseWords I have for today,


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