A Travellerspoint blog

Belfast, Bombings and Boxty

We had a big storm in north Clare last week (I'd been under the impression that I'd been living in west Clare for the last 6 weeks, but that's another story). Heavy rain and strong winds throughout the day turned into the expected miserable night; 'twas like sleeping in the Underground with a tube rushing by every seven seconds. A very damp and sodden Underground.

Friday morning found me in the Doolin Cafe, just down the road from my tent. The conversation went something like 'Would you like to see a menu?'
'No thanks, just a cup of black coffee and the biggest breakfast you have.'

The biggest breakfast is something called The Glutton, a beast consisting of poached eggs (2), crispy bacon (4 rashers), spicy chorizo (5 slices), beans (I didn't bother to count, but safe to say there were between 10 - 500), fried potatoes (ditto), roasted tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, haloumi on roasted peppers, toast, butter, apple juice brown sauce (the last is optional). And lots of black coffee.

Glancing through the Irish Times as I set about The Glutton, I came across an article about boxty and the possibility of it attaining the European Protected Geographical Indication status. This would confer on this once humble foodstuff, the same protection enjoyed by Champagne and Cheddar cheese.

It seems as if there is some doubt as to the origins of boxty and what it means. It is long thought to be known in Irish as aran bocht ti in, which translates as bread of the poor house or it may come from the word bacstai (to bake). Whether its a famine food or a more celebratory dish, this humble Irish fried potato pancake is now on sale in Dublin's Temple Bar and is becoming big business, particularly in the boxty heartlands of Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan.

The Glutton polished off, I was joined by Hazel, a grandmother from Oregon via Canada and before that Belfast. She was back in Ireland for her granddaughter's wedding. She and the family left Belfast for Canada in the mid 50's and from there to Oregon in 1957. She remembers the night, sometime in 1941, when the family home, with her and her sister inside, were bombed out by the Luftwaffe.

She lived near the docks, so it was a target for German bombs; her father was in the RUC and was on duty that night, whilst her mother was doing relief work. For some reason, earlier that evening, Hazel had cleared out the cupboard under the stairs and when the bombs started falling she told her younger sister to come down from their bedroom and stay in the cupboard. Within a couple of minutes, the top floor had disappeared under German bombs and both sisters survived. Sometime later in the evening, while rescue workers were clearing the rubble away, Hazel's sister got her hands on their fathers old revolver, determined to shoot the first person through what remained of their front door.

That's how they rolled in Belfast in 1941.

I can also recommend the porridge that comes with honey, seeds and cranberries. The poached eggs are to die for and Hannah, mine host, is a poet and photographer in her spare time.

Posted by johnward 08:36 Archived in Ireland

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