Embracing My Family Heritage through Ireland’s Food

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Remains of a Home in County Clare, Across from the Pinnacle Well

Remains of a Home in County Clare, Across from the Pinnacle Well

Every evening my great-great-grandparents had the routine of burying their rifle in the yard  of their Castlerea, County Roscommin, Ireland, home. My great-great-grandfather Patrick Gorman was a school teacher and revolutionary who fought against the British government as a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and he illegally possessed a weapon.

Travel to Ireland: Resident at Cliffs of Moher

Travel to Ireland: Resident at Cliffs of Moher

One day in 1884, Royal Irish Constabulary (called “Peelers”) who were Irish policemen and not British, unexpectedly descended upon their home giving my relatives no time to bury the rifle. Family lore speculates a British stool pigeon caught a glint of the sun as the rifle was being cleaned and tipped off the policemen. My great-great-grandmother Bridget hid the firearm under her apron and carried on at the hearth preparing supper. Since the rifle wasn’t found, the policemen went on their way.

That night, Patrick, 28 years old, walked more than 150 miles to Cork and took a boat to America to live with a married sister in Pennsylvania. Bridget was 32 years old and pregnant with their fourth child at the time but the family was reunited when he soon sent for them to begin a new life in the United States of America.

Blackberries Were in Season during My Trip to Ireland

Blackberries Were in Season during My Trip to Ireland

Food is More than Nourishment
Food in my family has always been more than nourishment, it is was way to connect while sitting around the dining room table and an expression of love. Not sure if it’s a blessing or curse I come from a family of amazing cooks with both grandmothers, the other of German descent, and my mom.

Attending the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference in Dublin was my cover for traveling to Ireland earlier this month but it was my family roots driving my decision to learn more about my heritage. Honestly, I didn’t spend time finding my family roots or chasing family tree branches but I did connect with my heritage through tasting the flavors of traditional and new Ireland.

Light and Crispy Fish & Chips at Harrington's in Dingle, Ireland

Light and Crispy Fish & Chips at Harrington’s in Dingle, Ireland

Tasting Traditional Irish Fare to Connect with My Family Heritage
In Dingle I tasted delicious fish and chips at Harrington’s Family Restaurant. It was fresh out of the fryer, the batter was light and crisp while the fish was tender and flaky. I gobbled up a hearty bowl of Guinness Beef Stew which was topped with two scoops of mashed potatoes at Jake’s Bar at Lynhams Hotel in Laragh, County Wicklow. And in Doolin, County Clare, I gobbled up a creamy cup of Doolin Bay Seafood Chowder at Fitzpatrick’s Bar.

Dermot Walsh of M&D Bakery in Ireland Explains the Irish Bread, Blaa during TBEX Opening Night Event at Guinness Storehouse

Dermot Walsh of M&D Bakery in Ireland Explains the Irish Bread, Blaa during TBEX Opening Night Event at Guinness Storehouse

During the conference’s opening night event called Fáilte Night for TBEX, at the Guinness Storehouse and sponsored by Fáilte Ireland, Dermot Walsh of M & D Bakery gave me the rundown about blaa (yes, it’s pronounced, “blah.”). It’s the traditional bread of Ireland, soft, square in shape and covered in white flour. I tasted it with slow-cooked pulled pork with Bramley apple sauce. Oh, so good!

That same night I slurped up a variety of fresh Irish oysters and savored creamy Irish cheeses provided by Sheridan Cheese Mongers with my favorite being the blue cheese.

Guinness is Ready for its Travel Blogger Closeup during TBEX Opening Night Event at Guinness Storehouse, Oct. 2013

Guinness is Ready for its Travel Blogger Closeup during TBEX Opening Night Event at Guinness Storehouse, Oct. 2013

Of course, what visit to Dublin isn’t complete without a lesson in the proper way to craft the perfect pint of Guinness? That evening I learned from a Guinness master brewer it takes exactly 19.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. Enjoying the perfect pint involves something like kissing the glass and sipping it so the creamy layer is left at the bottom. (I was holding a pint of Guinness and couldn’t take notes!)

Baked Potato Consommé by Chef Mark Moriarty

Baked Potato Consommé by Chef Mark Moriarty

New Flavors of Ireland
Yeah, all of the above were the expected tastes of Ireland and there’s nothing wrong with it. They are flavors I was searching and craved to enjoy and I definitely did. In contrast, I tasted some of the new flavors of Ireland. For instance, during that evening I tasted something amazing, Baked Potato Consommé. Chef Mark Moriarty created this liquid shot of pure Dublin rooster potatoes grown by Keoghs.

Ever have Cheddar Cheese ice cream? I don’t recommend it because the chunks of cheddar cheese were dry in contrast to the creamy ice cream. It was gross. But, I gave it a try during my visit to Dingle and did enjoy the flavors of Irish Orange Marmalade and Organic Oats from Murphy’s Ice Cream.

The Dublin Flame at the ODEON Nite Bar, Dublin

The Dublin Flame at the ODEON Nite Bar, Dublin

Expedia hosted an evening at the ODEON Nite Bar which served up traditional adult beverages but gave classics a new twist. Two specialty drinks I tried were the An Bodhran, with Bushmills Irish Whiskey, Port, Maple Sugar, Egg, Mint Bitters, and The Dublin Flame, crafted with Jameson Irish Whiskey, Havana Especial, Orange,Vanilla, Orgeat, and Passion Fruit. As the name implies, the Dublin Flame was served after the bartender set it on fire and it glowed with a blue flame. The An Bodhran was my favorite for its creamy, sweet combination.

Had a Delicious Lunch at the Mongolian Barbecue, Dublin

Had a Delicious Lunch at the Mongolian Barbecue, Dublin

Flavors Being Influenced by Other Countries
Traditional Irish flavors are evolving and new cuisines from around the globe are dazzling taste buds. Near my hotel, the Mespil Dublin, I enjoyed a savory Moroccan dinner at Keshk Café Restaurant with chicken, veggies and roasted potatoes.  I suppose the biggest surprise was a hearty and affordable lunch at Mongolian BBQ. For €5.99, I filled a bowl with veggies, pasta, and my choice of protein (chicken) along with spices and sauces then watched someone grilled it up. Yum!

Sheep in the Wicklow Mountains

Sheep in the Wicklow Mountains

Where to Go From Here?
I didn’t find where my Irish family tree sprouted but I know how one branch of the story ended. My great-great-grandfather Patrick passed away at the age of 43 from sunstroke while laying railroad tracks. It’s believed my Gorman family’s last connection to Ireland may have ended when a relative’s 15-year-old son was killed in a car accident. The ending may be sad but the bright spot is knowing I have my great-great-grandmother’s side of the family to research. Living in the now, this trip has brought me joy through connecting with some of my Irish heritage one bite at a time.

Disclosure: As an attendee of TBEX, I was able to travel to Wicklow with Wild Wicklow Tours and as a travel blogger was able to visit Dingle and other areas of Ireland beyond Dublin with Day Tours World and Paddywagon Tours. In addition to Fáilte Ireland other entities who supported TBEX were Tourism Ireland, Visit Dublin, The Gathering Ireland 2013, Dublin City Council, Kildare Village, Limercik 2014 City of Culture, Irish Hotels Federation, the Old Jameson Distillery and DoubleTree by Hilton.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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3 Comments

  1. This is a great story!

    All your family loved food!

    However, sometimes things were tough.

    Your Great Grandfather always enjoyed cereal with hot water on because that was what he had as a lad and some lard spread on bread was a great treat!

  2. Someone just told me about your blog and also “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. I just “Liked” his page and now came to your site. I love when people share blogs. Denise

  3. I remember Grandma H. giving us some kind of cereal with hot water and it wasn’t oatmeal. Maybe she learned it from him. Not sure about the lard, no wonder heart attacks run in the family!

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