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!
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.