Monday, September 15, 2014

A Taste of West Cork

Calling all foodies. If you're a food lover, especially for the taste of fresh, local ingredients, then Ireland, particularly County Cork, is the place for you. The first time I visited the English Market, it was more like a tour. I couldn't possibly remember everything I'd seen, bu had seen enough to know that I was definitely coming back! It's kind of like an all-year, indoor farmer's market, but much more sophisticated.There are a couple delicious cafes, there are little nooks and crannies filled with wonderful things, as well as high ceilings, wood stairways and lovely artwork. There are 'group stands' or markets. And you pay for your things at each individual market.You could buy cheap apples from this fresh market here or from that one over there, for close to the same price. Everything smells as it should, straight from nature. So if you close your eyes, you can take it all in and distinguish each: herbs, fruits, meats, bread, vegetables, and dairy. My first visit there, I wasn't grocery shopping just yet, but bought some soup for 5 euro in the upstairs cafe. It was Tomato Basil, where they served it on pure white ceramics with sprinkled basil leaves on top and french bread on the side. It was pretty much the creamiest tomato soup ever. A few days later, I came back t get some cooking supplies, bringing only a little more than 20 euro with me. I only brought this much because I knew I could easily find stew supplies with this amount. So I stepped into the market and my first stop was the fresh-baked bread section. Now, breads are kind of a big deal in Ireland. So you shouldn't go waving any Wheat Belly books or Living Gluten-Free stuff around. Of course there's always some gluten-free options to those who are allergic, but still, bread's a big deal. So after asking the sweet lady-of-the-stand about the various breads, I purchased the soda bread. I had to buy the soda bread, for one because I've never had it before, and for two because she said it is best served with soups. Next I stopped at one of the many local vegetable markets, and grabbed two bulbs of garlic, an onion, and several loose potatoes. After that, I stopped at one of the meat markets, which had a lot of pork. I got a large slab of rib for fairly cheap,since I was getting stuff to make my rib stew. They took up a hunk of the smelly meat right in front of me, and then chopped off how many kilograms I wanted. I gave them cash and they handed me back my change with bloody hands and all. I thought it was pretty cool. Sometime I want to buy lamb too. If you're buying fish, you can get them whole and slimy as they come. That's what I like about this place, but occasionally I do have to scrunch my nose a bit around the fish and meats. I had to smile while I was shopping though, because there was so much other cultural stuff going on around me. One Irish daddy was trying to cheer up his little girl he was holding, while standing in front of a sausage stand. He says to his little girl,"Look, it's a sausage lolly-pop!" Wow, I thought,"only in Ireland might a toddler get excited over a sausage lolly-pop!" So, I finished my shopping ingredients by stopping lastly at a West Cork farmer's booth and purchasing homemade cheese, garden carrots, and milk. I'll never forget the kind farmer there. He said in his strong accent,"Where in da States are ya frome?" I replied,"Michigan". He goes, "Oh, that's good dairy country too, yes?" He was one of those kind hearts that makes me feel at home here, and I cherished the items I purchased from him. Here's a funny lesson about cheese buying in Ireland though: make sure you know what you're buying! Because I didn't. Only that it was homemade, fresh farmhouse cheese from West Cork. I opened it up back at my place, took a taste, and literally could NOT finish it! I THEN looked at the type of cheese(please do this before buying, haha), and saw that it is an Og cheese. Something aged and strong, anyway, and not the sandwich cheese I thought I was buying! So the said cheese still lies in the bottom of my fridge, awaiting another brave mouth other than my own. I could literally taste the barn in it, which might be fine for some strong-cheese lovers.
I don't go out to eat too much so far, of course to save money. I'm sort of saving that for the days we have program trips away. But sometimes I grab a quick thing or two from campus cafes or in town. Since I bought a nice coffee maker for only 12.99 euro(no tax added), I don't have to buy coffee and tea as much when out and about. Coffee shops are one of my favorite things however, so I will hopefully be doing more coffee shop friend dates in the future, in order to get the best of the experience here. The other grocery stores where I grab quick supplies are Dealz, Tesco, and Centra. Say, if I need a small jug of orange juice, or a bag of coffee, Centra is great. Tesco Express has a few more things than Centra, such as meats, incredible yogurts, snacks, fresh breads, cereals, some reasonably priced produce. Dealz has a little bit of cheap everything: shampoo & conditioner, batteries, oatmeal cereals and granola bars, dried products(even buckets), laundry soap,  tea towels, and dishes, etc. Most items in the store are only 1.49 euro each, so it's totally a money-saver for some things I only need for a few months.
So, that's my current taste of Ireland living, and I'm loving it. We just might want to try importing West Cork yogurt into the States, soon, just sayin', as it really is that good!


  1. Hey my co-worker who's been there said that you should save all your receipts, and when you leave the country you can turn them in and get your tax back.

  2. Great idea. Where does one 'turn them in' though? Yeah I made a mistake about my taxation comment. As you know, the VAT tax is inclusive in cost. Did your co-worker study here too or just visit for awhile?