Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Sprummer (Virtual) Vacacay: Ireland!

Asymmetric flag by me, fancy letters by Tanya
If you read "coddle" yesterday and immediately thought "They must be going to Ireland next!", then you must be Irish. I had no idea what coddle was until Tanya started researching Irish foods. When we read about coddle, we realized this would a) be doable by us, and b) be something we would almost certainly have to try if we ever actually went to Ireland.


In case you were wondering what coddle actually is... imagine you've been preparing meals all week, but you haven't eaten all of the leftovers, or you haven't quite used up all of your ingredients. What if you were to, say, put all of the leftovers and extra ingredients into a stew pot and cook it for three or four hours? Conceptually, that's what coddle is.

Time to make the coddle!

In actuality, it turned out to be a really tasty, slow-cooked stew based on potatoes, onions, and pork. The coddle recipe we (mostly) followed was: This page also describes a bit of the origin and history of coddle, so it's worth reading even if you decide not to make it.

Preparation was pretty simple: brown the bacon and sausages a bit, cut up the vegetables, dump it all in a pot with the water and stock, and stick it in the oven for four hours. Most of the liquid was absorbed or cooked off, and the potatoes and sausage held their shape and texture without being tough or mushy. The bacon flavor was the most prominent for me, but every now and then I got a large enough bite of mushrooms to say "Hey! This tastes like Trout Al Asador!" Tanya really did put the leftover mushroom cream sauce from the Patagonia production into the coddle, and it was ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS!

Coddle for DAYZ!

We paired the coddle with Smithwick's Irish Ale. I can hear you silently screaming "WHY NO GUINNESS?! WHY NO WHISKEY?!" There are at least a couple of reasons:
  1. Tanya doesn't like stout beer. And of the stouts I've tried, Guinness is the OKest. I suspect there are better Irish stouts to be had, but not very many popular enough to make it to the US common market.
  2. Neither of us like whiskey very much, nor is whiskey something I would consider drinking with a stew.
  3. The stew is quite heavy. A nice ale was the perfect compliment to it.
We'd also considered Killian's Irish Red, but decided on Smithwick's, mainly because we'd had Killian's before but couldn't remember having Smithwick's. I like Killian's, and am happy to discover the same with Smithwick's. Now I know that when we finally make it to Ireland, I'll be OK on beer. :-)

You should try this. All of it. Even the drawing.


There are lots and lots of options to choose from when trying to virtually explore Ireland. After researching several of them, it became apparent that none were better than Ireland with Simon Reeve, a BBC travel documentary made in 2015.

I'm still processing quite a bit of what we watched and learned, actually. I'm almost certainly going to do it a disservice here, so I strongly recommend you watch the documentary yourself if you have any interest in Ireland at all.

The documentary is broken into two parts, where Simon Reeve starts at the southern end of the Republic of Ireland, drives up the west coast, crosses into Northern Ireland, and then drives down the east coast back to where he started. The entire coastline is spectacular, some parts of it breathtakingly so. The history of the Irish people and their relationship with Britain specifically, is interesting in some of the most complicated ways. Here are a few things that were surprising/news to me:

  • The current population of Ireland is still less than its population before the Irish Potato Famine (1845). About one million people died during the famine, which probably represented between 20 and 25 percent of the entire population.
  • Lots of Irish folks are still suffering from the effects of the Great Recession.
  • A highway was diverted in order to preserve a large bush that an expert in such matters declared as sacred to the fairy folk and dire consequences would be suffered if it were disturbed. Nothing bad has happened since they dodged it, so he must've been right!
  • There are some good places to surf in Ireland! Also, Ireland has had professional surfers, at least one of which has returned to Ireland to run a surf school.
  • The people are still pretty deeply spiritual, but they aren't actively attending church. At the turn of the century, about 4 in 5 Irishfolk professed to attend church regularly. Now, that number is more like 1 in 5.
  • Despite the above fact, deep division still exists between members of Catholicism and Protestantism. Schools, for example, are segregated along those lines, as they are primarily run via the church, not the state.
  • Also despite the above, LOTS of people climb St. Patrick's sacred mountain, especially on special days. One guy was doing it barefoot despite the rainy weather and slippery slope.
  • The Troubles might have officially ended, but the fundamental issues still haven't been dealt with, especially in Belfast. Loyalists (people that embrace the United Kingdom and its heritage) and Nationalists (people that think there should be a unified Ireland) are still building large physical walls between their communities, and feel threatened by each other.
  • There is an animal sanctuary hidden in Ireland, and as of 2015 they were in care of at least 25 former test subject monkeys.
These are the things that I remember off the top of my head. The documentary is actually worth watching again, and has actually increased my desire to visit Ireland in real life. If you ever have a chance to go, I suggest you take it! Travel in general is a great way to grow as a person, and Ireland specifically has lots of compelling things to entice you!

Tomorrow is a travel break, so no new stuff until the following day. Any guesses as to where we'll end up next? Two hints:
  1. Food preparation for this stop is, by far, the most involved. By the end, we will have been preparing for *3* days, with ingredients that include pork, soy sauce, eggs, ginger, and many other things!
  2. We'll be the first people to see the sun rise that day. :-D

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