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pigs-blood pudding is totally vegetarian…

August 22nd, 2010

swan lake in county mayo, republic of ireland

Her knuckles white, she gripped the steering wheel, back erect. The nervous energy in the car was thick. I took a deep breath and focused on relaxing my body, staying calm, and sending only positive, confident vibes to Jen, who was behind the wheel of our rented car. I was glad she had chosen to be the first to drive but totally empathized with her nervousness. We had just picked up our tiny silver rental and were trying to find our way out of Dublin to the expressway. Driving on the wrong side of the car and street was a disconcerting experience for both driver and passenger. Thankfully it was a pretty straight shot from the car rental company to the highway and Jen drove beautifully, despite the fact she was tense. Once on the highway, Jen grew confident and her anxiousness dissipated.

We drove north-west and ended up in a small village outside of Castlebar (County Mayo) where we were staying for a few days. Jen had a colleague who is from Ireland and he organized it so that we could stay with his parents for a few days.

We somehow found the Walsh home (there was no physical address and we were given spotty directions) and were given a very warm welcome. Mom (Rita) Walsh had a fire going in the living room, which I promptly situated myself in front of, and Dad (Kevin) Walsh made us some very, very strong hot toddies (which he made with a clear whiskey in an unmarked bottle I liked to refer to affectionately as “fire water”). Rita put out some dinner for us and could not seem to get over the fact that I’m a vegetarian

Irish men bidding on cattle at the cattle Mart in County Mayo

and don’t eat meat. I imagine there aren’t very many vegetarians in Ireland, land of meat and potatoes!

That night we slept well, thanks to the warm fire going in our room and the body warmth the hot toddies provided. In the morning we awoke early and Rita already had breakfast going in the kitchen. Rita pointed out plate with what looked like round pieces of black bread. She told me I’d like that, being a vegetarian, since it was filled with lots of grains. I took a piece and broke off a rather large bite. I chewed and swallowed. It tasted good and the crunch of the grains was pleasing. Before I put another piece into my mouth, I inquired about the color of the bread. It was seriously dark black and I’d never seen anything like it.

“So, what makes this bread so black?” I asked, looking up at Rita. The look on her face was priceless. It was almost like a deer in the headlights. She looked over at Kevin and back at me. I sat there waiting for an answer, bite number two poised to my lips. Clearly Rita was not going to answer, so Kevin piped up in his quiet, easy way of talking.

Dad (Kevin) Walsh sitting in the kitchen at the farm house in County Mayo

“Well,” he said, “What makes it that color is the pig blood it’s made with.” I’m quite sure the look on my face was priceless as well. PIGS BLOOD?!? Rita looked at Kevin with daggers in her eyes; I, on the other hand, had to control myself to avoid falling over with laughter. Why would she think pig’s blood pudding was vegetarian?!? Surely she knew what it was made with! Totally hilarious, right? Anyway, no harm done, I put the rest of the blood pudding aside and carried on with my breakfast.

We spent three days on the farm with the Walsh family and it was a relaxing, easy time. Their eldest son, Jude, took us driving through the countryside every evening, where we captured gorgeous photos. Rita took us to a street faire in a small neighboring village. Kevin took us with him to the Mart (where cattle are sold) which was an interesting new experience. It was fascinating to have an intimate look into the life of Irish farming, for sure. The countryside in County Mayo was breathtaking and I got some excellent photos!

2 Responses to “pigs-blood pudding is totally vegetarian…”

  1. Jennifer says:

    You are too kind re: my driving. I was a total mess! My back was sore from being so tense and from gripping the steering wheel at the proper 9 and 12 o’clock positions AT ALL TIMES!.

    Regarding the pudding, well, the most priceless expression I saw was yours. It went from WTF? to Disbelief, to Oh no she didn’t, to okay whatever. I wanted to laugh out loud but held it in mby digging in to my plate (yes, a whole plate for one) of bacon and sausages.

  2. Oh wow, this story is priceless!! There is a similar food in Nicaragua. I wonder if it comes form Irish roots.

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