Embracing My Family Heritage through Ireland’s Food

Random Window in Dingle, Ireland
Remains of a Home in County Clare, Across from the Pinnacle Wellopens IMAGE file
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 Irelandopens IMAGE file
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 opens in a new windowTravel 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 opens in a new windowHarrington’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 opens in a new windowJake’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 opens in a new windowFitzpatrick’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 opens in a new windowGuinness Storehouse and sponsored by opens in a new windowFáilte Ireland, Dermot Walsh of opens in a new windowM & 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 opens in a new windowSheridan 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. opens in a new windowChef Mark Moriarty created this liquid shot of pure Dublin rooster potatoes grown by opens in a new windowKeoghs.

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 opens in a new windowMurphy’s Ice Cream.

The Dublin Flame at the ODEON Nite Bar, Dublin
The Dublin Flame at the ODEON Nite Bar, Dublin

opens in a new windowExpedia hosted an evening at the opens in a new windowODEON 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 opens in a new windowMespil Dublin, I enjoyed a savory Moroccan dinner at opens in a new windowKeshk Café Restaurant with chicken, veggies and roasted potatoes.  I suppose the biggest surprise was a hearty and affordable lunch at opens in a new windowMongolian 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.


opens in a new windowDisclosure: As an attendee of TBEX, I was able to travel to Wicklow with opens in a new windowWild Wicklow Tours and as a travel blogger was able to visit Dingle and other areas of Ireland beyond Dublin with opens in a new windowDay Tours World and opens in a new windowPaddywagon Tours. In addition to Fáilte Ireland other entities who supported TBEX were opens in a new windowTourism Ireland, opens in a new windowVisit Dublin, opens in a new windowThe Gathering Ireland 2013, opens in a new windowDublin City Council, opens in a new windowKildare Village, opens in a new windowLimercik 2014 City of Culture, opens in a new windowIrish Hotels Federation, the opens in a new windowOld Jameson Distillery and opens in a new windowDoubleTree by Hilton. This post also contains affiliate links in order to support my traveling habit and this blog.

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Jenn

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

8 thoughts on “Embracing My Family Heritage through Ireland’s Food

  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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