Home Sweet McHome

This was one of the first posts I ever did, back when I started a blog as a way to tell my family about my sister Lib and my trip to Ireland.  It’s only fitting that I repost it this week when Lib and I are, once again, on tour. This time we’re enjoying our nation’s capital.

See you next week!

when in Rome…



My sister Lib and I stood stock-still on the Dublin sidewalk, glaring at one another over arms piled high with packages.

It was the first, full day of our dream vacation in Ireland.  We had seen the sights and visited the shops.  Now we were wandering, dazed and confused, trying to decide on a place for lunch.  What was it to be, traditional or Irish fusion?  Pub or café, Italian or Thai?

We had just 2 hours to eat and catch a city bus to the Kilmainham Gaol before it closed.

We were on O’Connell Street just north of the Liffey, an area alive with Irish history.   I had spotted the place near the monument to The Liberator, Daniel O’Connell.

“How about Burger King?” I said.

That was when Lib stopped dead.  She stared at me for a full 2 minutes.  I squirmed, knowing what was coming, knowing I had no defense.

“We..Are..Not..Going..To..Burger King!” Her scorn was withering, her diction, precise.

“We are in Ireland.  Ireland, for God’s sake! With all the choices before us, with the chances to experience the culture, to even suggest…”she sputtered off.  “That’s not even real food!”  More in the same vein followed.

Jeez. You would think I had suggested we club some baby seals for seafood tartar.

“I was joking!” I said sullenly. “You know, joking?”

I hadn’t been joking.  The suggestion had sprung up on its own, straight from my unconscious brain to my mouth.  Okay, we were strapped for time.  But … Burger King?  Had I said that?

I decry the homogenization of America.  Off any exit ramp, in any state of the union, one can see the same congestion of Wal-Marts, McDonalds and Blockbuster Videos.   Sometimes only palm trees in the lot, or snow on the ground gives a hint as to relative location.  My daughters have heard this tirade often enough to roll their eyes and turn up their iPods when I begin.

Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate the benefits of fast food.  When dashing from Point A to Point B, that dependability and speed are welcome.  It is especially handy to know there will be a place just up the road to stop and go, if you get my drift.  This amenity was sorely missed in Ireland.  You can’t very well pick a thatched cottage at random, knock on the door and ask to use the bathroom.

I’m old enough to remember when fast food seemed exotic.  It was a rare treat when Dad picked up burgers for dinner.  Then the franchises spread like kudzu, choking out local restaurants.

I swore that my children would not grow up thinking that Taco Bell was real Mexican food.   I cooked.  I did healthy.  But the ease and availability of fast food sang its siren song.  I bought the happy meals, and my kids were hooked.

For several generations of Americans, fast food is now home cooking.  Big Macs have taken the place of mom’s apple pie and pot roast as comfort food.

Perhaps comfort was what I was seeking.  When faced with an overwhelming variety of foreign, I wanted a gastronomical security blanket.

Insight led to resolve.  Right there in front of Burger King.  I wasn’t here for familiar; I was here for adventure.

I swallowed my defensive ire and let Lib lead the way.  She marched us into the nearest pub for shepherd’s pie.  Washing it down with a pint of Guinness lessened the disappointment of missing the jail tour.

From then on we sampled the native cuisine at every opportunity.  We even tried black pudding for breakfast.   Well, we seriously considered trying black pudding, but chose white pudding instead.  The black is made with sheep’s blood.  There’s adventurous, and then there’s nuts.

Several days later we were driving through Waterford when I spied a McDonalds across the street from the famous crystal factory.  I barely glanced at it.

“Um, do you think we could stop?”  Lib said hesitantly.  “Just for some fries and to use the bathroom?”

I’d like to think I didn’t smirk as I parked in the shade of the golden arches.  Even the most discriminating palate is no match for a full bladder.


About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
This entry was posted in General Ramblings, Ireland - Dublin and Publin' and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Home Sweet McHome

  1. Molly says:

    I MUST admit that I’ve eaten at that very Burger King on O’Connell Street in Dublin. It was 12:30 a.m. or so, and my friends and I had just completed a pub crawl, during which I was a featured guest singer. So the Burger King was simply a respite from having paid an appropriate level of homage to the land of green and Guinness, and, yes, a comfort stop. Next time, come to Ireland with ME!


  2. Mary Mahar says:

    Very well written, humorous and unfortunately true. Didn’t eat at any fast food in Ireland, but my husband almost ran across the O’Connell Street Bridge to get to the Dunkin Donuts for some ‘real’ coffee. We did have an excellent meal at ‘The Brazen Head’, the oldest pub in dublin.


    • pegoleg says:

      Did you notice you can’t get decaf in Ireland? Even at McDonalds? Kept having to tell myself I was not going to be THAT tourist, always whining because things were different than back home.

      I’ll have to try The Brazen Head if and when I ever get back.


  3. Terrasidius says:

    Lol, I love black pudding. In fact I’m about to have some now! 🙂 Awesome post. I especially liked your newest one about your Dad… was beautiful. I dont have a Dad so I can only imagine how great he was. Great blog! 🙂


    • pegoleg says:

      You are braver than I. But the white pudding was yummy! I would so love to get back to Ireland – maybe next year. Sorry you don’t have a dad – a good one is a real blessing.


  4. Which nation’s capital? If it’s DC, please observe all crosswalk signs and don’t believe those Segway people — we do laugh at you. We do. Be careful out here. There are quasi-hippies with bad attitudes driving these streets!


    • pegoleg says:

      I am back and I lived to tell the tale. The trip was magical, but the traffic…DEAR LORD, the traffic in DC is worse than Rome! We were cursing at the top of our lungs as it took 3 hours of stop-and-stop traffic and getting lost to finally return our rental car to the airport.


  5. grand-player says:

    Did McDonalds in Italy and I don’t even do it in Atlanta. “Gastronomical security blanket” – that’s about right. One change since you first wrote this, blockbusters are almost gone. Have fun with your sister!


  6. joehoover says:

    My friends lived in the city centre of Dublin for many years so I didn’t need much excuse to pop over. They lived just by the top of O connell street, turn right onto Parnell Street and near The James Joyce centre. How cool everyone here knows it well.

    And try black pudding, it’s delicious, it just tastes like oniony herby meat, but a but crumbly.


  7. ratifying obliqueer says:



  8. Funny post. (Have to admit we entered a McDonald’s in London – tired and rushed.) I remember when eating out – anywhere- was a real luxury…and my mom said we weren’t going to waste an “eating out” on hamburgers when she could make those at home! (we whined about wanting that special secret sauce, though)
    (Finally got notice of your post in reader today – it’s been pretty iffy…I kept subscribing and nothing – another oddity.)


    • pegoleg says:

      “tired and rushed” says it all – trying all those new things takes energy.

      Mom’s hamburgers were fine and all, but just couldn’t compete with those cool, skinny pancake-like burgers with the special sauce.

      I’ve been all up in WordPress’ face about my subscription issues. They thought they had it fixed a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure what else to do as my stats plummet through the floor because some people aren’t getting notices. le sigh.


      • My stats (and others’ also) have oddly dropped…. About the time they pushed “Reader”/ comment notifications and people were bombarded with emails about new posts and comment responses – Out of self defense, people changed their settings to never notify even on followed blogs.
        Stuff is all ending up in spam.
        Encouraging the group connections – and that new pay “to improve placement and catch attention of search engines”?
        Big sigh.
        Don’t have time to keep up with it all.


  9. Ah yes, sampling the local cuisine is one of the best things about traveling! I know it’s each to their own and all that, but I can never understand it when people go abroad and spend their time seeking out the most familiar food they can find (I’m not speaking of you and your Burger King as I know that was just a brief moment of weakness).


  10. Audrey says:

    We really do go to our comforts when we’re out of our element like that. My first international trip was to Russia and Sweden when I was 17 to close out my senior year of high school. We all spoke a bit of Russian but missed hearing and seeing things in English so much that anytime we were in our hotel rooms the tv was turned to MTV’s Top Ten because they featured American bands. Funny how we look for the familiarity of home…


    • pegoleg says:

      It is about comfort and just wanting to hear a little something familiar. I went to Burger King when I was in Rome a million years ago, and still have the paper place mat with the Hamburgler saying stuff in Italian for my scrap book.


  11. Yes, we did MacDonald’s in Paris–oui, oui–we did in more ways than one. A regular hamburger was $7 back in the 80’s. A plate of spaghetti was $25. Yes, we did MacDonald’s in Paris and sensibly proud of it.
    Hope you have a fabulous trip in our nation’s capital. Weren’t you just in FL? You do get around.


    • pegoleg says:

      No way – really, $7? I had heard Paris is expensive, but haven’t managed to get there yet. I did manage a $25 plate of spaghetti in Washington DC, though. Does that count?


  12. Isn’t that what McD’s really is anyway, just a giant restroom? That’s the only reason I EVER set foot in there. Granted, usually a big greasy sack of fries, a Big Mac and a chocolate shake magically make their way into my hands on the way out from the restroom….

    Hope you’re having a great trip in DC!


  13. And you didn’t go to SuperMacs? That’s the Irish version of Burger King, where you can get “salad burgers’ which are basically burgers with coleslaw and lettuce, and you can also get chips (fries!) with garlic mayo and cheddar cheese that are the bomb. That might have been one way of getting around the fast-but-still-got-integrity decision making 🙂


  14. I guess a guy whose blood is at least 25% ‘Special Sauce’ probably shouldn’t blame you for any of this, Peg.


  15. Tar-Buns says:

    I didn’t get an email about this post, either. That’s two in a row. Guess I’ll re-subscribe.

    I know what you speak about frequenting the American, now international fast food eateries. Did that while living in Japan. I became very fond of the Japanese cuisine. But, I was also two blocks from KFC, and I do like KFC, so, once every couple weeks, I’d bicycle over there for some chicken from home, so to speak.

    The interesting thing is the menu does change in foreign countries. They didn’t have mashed taters and gravy at the Japanese KFC. The Shakey’s Pizza (name?) had pizza with corn on it. I love corn, but come on, not on a pizza. So it was always an adventure.

    We only ate fast food while on the road in our travels to Maine. When in Maine, of course, we were eating lobster and clam chowder most every day.

    Looking forward to seeing and hearing all about the DC trip with the Libster.


    • pegoleg says:

      I didn’t remember you ate KFC for a taste of home. I can totally understand that, especially since you were all by yourself so far from home.

      I found myself getting annoyed that I couldn’t get a decent cup of decaf coffee in Ireland, even at the McDonald’s. I thought for SURE the menu would be the same, but no – like you said, they had a regional slant. That way the wary American can experience Foreign-Lite.


  16. We never ate fast food when we lived in America but we found ourselves craving it all the time after we’d lived in China for a few months. It took us a few years but we finally worked past our fast food addiction, although we’re still living with the shame.


    • pegoleg says:

      I tutor several Chinese students in an English-as-a-Second-Language class. Besides little things like their ability to speak our language, the biggest difference between one woman who has been here less than 1 year and one who has been here 11 years is their attitude towards the food. The newbie is about 95 pounds because her husband always wants to go through the fast food drive-through and she can’t stand it. The older lady is a little plump because she managed to overcome that same attitude from the early days and now craves the Big Macs.


      • Fast food is growing in popularity here in China. McDonalds is moderately popular but they absolutely love Kentucky Fried Chicken. I see KFCs everywhere. People will travel hours and hours from a remote village just to visit KFC on their birthdays.


  17. Loved this! There was a restaurant in Dublin, still have a postcard from it that served the grandest rolled chocolate cake in the world; seven layers of chocolate. I ate their three nights in a row just for that cake, their dinners were great also.


  18. mistyslaws says:

    Again, no notice of your posting this. I subscribed to the emails. I have been getting them for everyone else, as far as I am aware. Greatsby, Byronic, Darla, Jules, Renee, Thoughtsy, etc. Not sure why your site hates me.

    As to the post . . . I am anti-fast food in almost all circumstances. But there is something about having a readily available bathroom and a shake every once in a while. But I hate McDonalds and have never let my kids eat there. Mostly because I know what will happen. Hook line and sinker. Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t so steadfast. Those nights when a happy meal would be much easier than rushing home to try to cook something healthy. Damn ideals!


    • pegoleg says:

      Wow! You had the strength of will that I promised myself I would have with the kids. Sadly, it didn’t last long.

      WordPress said the problem was that I reposted the blogs with the same name, so the subscriber-informer-deal (that’s the technical term) didn’t resend it. Next time I should just cut and paste when I post reruns.


  19. Shannon says:

    McDonald’s for me – bathroom only. In Malaysia, all the locals went to the McDonald’s to eat. I held out for the kedai makan (food shops) on the roadside for some truly spectacular dining – hot off the wok, onto a banana leaf, eaten with a hand. I knew that kind of dining wouldn’t last for long (only for two years), and I miss it to this day. It was also half the price.

    These days my fast food choice would be Taco Cabana. Six flour tortillas, a side of refried beans (no cheese), and pico de gallo, cilantro, and jalepenos (free, as condiments) for $4. It feeds me twice. And I’m in and out in virtually seconds, avoiding the idling in the drive-through line.


    • pegoleg says:

      Good for you! I’m all about sampling the local cuisine…in Europe. Malaysia, however, sounds a little scary. Taco Cabana sounds like my kind of place – wish we had something like that around here.


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