“There are only two kinds of people in the world. The Irish and those who wish they were.” Anonymous
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to give you a little background on what is a national holiday here in Ireland – yes! the entire country is off today – and what has become an unofficial national holiday around the world. St. Patrick, a fifth-century missionary and bishop, was the founder of Christianity in Ireland and thus became the primary patron saint of Ireland. When Patrick was sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates…oh, who really cares?
The important thing is that it gives the world a reason to celebrate. From Chicago, to Tokyo, to Cape Town, to Buenos Aires, to Auckland – the list goes on – the globe goes green. Green rivers, green beers, even green milkshakes – I mean come on, let’s hear it for the masterpiece that is the shamrock shake!
And then of course it’s the memories made. In Ireland it’s more like St. Paddy’s week and for me personally it was one that I will always remember.
As luck would have it, my friend Sarah, her sister, her sister’s two young daughters, her mother, and her aunt scheduled their visit to Dublin three days ago. (The “Ryan girls” are here in Ireland to celebrate their patriarch John Ryan who was born in Dungarven. They lost him – their father, grandfather, and great- grandfather – last year. He was a great man and his girls wanted to honor him by coming to his homeland together.)
We all met up downstairs at Bruxelles for beers, Bulmers, mussels, shepherd’s pie, and bangers and mash. It was one of those perfect meet ups when everything works out just as you imagined it might.
Next, we went straight to Murphy’s. I still maintain it’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had and I think everyone agreed. Little seven year old Maddie got the silky smooth chocolate. She liked it so much that she asked her mom if she could have another, and because she’s seven and because this is Dublin, her mother said yes. Maddie got a tiny Murphy’s notebook so that she could keep track of her culinary experiences in Ireland – absolutely priceless stuff.
Then Sarah, her Aunt Lisa, and I met up with Helen at…well I think you know where I’m going with this. Yes, we went to the Oak. When we walked in the door Stephen told us that we just missed Tom. We were all heartbroken, and Sarah and her aunt don’t even know him! He’s legendary. (By the way, Tom is opening a new boutique hotel in Oldcastle, County Meath. I’ll give you an update with the particulars soon.)
We started with shots of kahlua and Bailey’s. It was just so great to have Helen meet Sarah and her aunt and we were having so much fun, when Stephen nonchalantly said, “Kathy, would you like to come behind the bar and I’ll show you how to pour a Guinness.” I was beside myself. I ran behind the bar while everyone I knew in the place got out their phones to capture the whole thing. I might have said something like, “Is this legal?”, but I think the response was something along the lines of “feck it, sure it’ll be grand.”
The art of pouring a Guinness includes the angle the glass is held during the different stages of pouring, the precise length of time the pint must be left to settle, and the force with which the draught is poured from the tap. When you – well in this case I – pull the tap forward, the force of the tap is stronger, so the bubbles begin to form. Stephen showed me how to hold the glass at a 45 degree angle so that the bubbles form a smoother, creamier head. The glass is slowly straightened once the Guinness gets to the top of the harp that’s pictured on the glass. Then I placed the not quite finished pint on the bar. Then came the wait. It’s supposed to be exactly 119.5 seconds. (The craic was mighty in those almost two minutes.) And then to top off the pint, I was amazed to find out that you have to push the tap away from you. This softens the force of the flow so that the glass is finally filled, but the bubbles are not ruined. Helen came over to help me get rid of one lingering big bubble, so all together we made one perfect pint. And then I got to serve my first pint to a nice guy named Joe who seemed to be amused by all the excitement. I loved everything about it.
So thanks a million to my wonderful friends who cheered me on, to Stephen, the most cheerful, patient teacher a girl could ask for, and of course to Joe at the end of the bar. I haven’t had that much fun since St. Patrick was a kid.