Sometimes it takes a foreigner to capture the truth about a nation:
Ireland … isn’t exactly the sexiest country in the world … constant gray skies, cool temperatures and an obsession with one of nature’s homeliest vegetables….
Ouch. Harsh but true.
By tradition, we, like our food, are more hearty and plain than delicate and fancy. We are bacon and cabbage and boiled potatoes. We are soda bread, apple tart and the ubiquitous cup of tea. We are the food that you go to your Mammy’s house for. But when we eat out, we generally look to foreign cuisines for something a little outside of our Irish selves.
Perhaps, to my shame, that’s the reason why, in all my years of living in Dublin, I had managed, until now, to avoid darkening the door of Gallagher’s Boxty House. With its traditional Irish menu and diddly-eye music, it sat firmly in my “just for tourists” category.
Yet a restaurant, of whatever type, that has been around for 22 years, has to be doing something right. And as for Pádraic Óg Gallagher, owner and originator of Gallagher’s Boxty House, I can but admire a man who builds an entire menu around boxty, Ireland’s own particular contribution to the pantheon of potato pancakes. The popularity of Gallagher’s boxty is borne out by the restaurant’s one-tonne-a-week potato habit.
Whilst most of the boxty served up is in the form of thick, substantial pancakes, you can also sample boiled boxty, which is dense but lovely in a stodgy way, and the lighter textured baked boxty loaf. The boxty pancakes, meanwhile, you will find wrapped around all sorts of things including (yes) bacon and cabbage. All substantial and satisfying stuff.
My visit to Gallagher’s Boxty House, though, was more than the sum of the boxties served.
It lived up to its promise of “bia, caint, ceol agus craic” / “food, chat, music and fun”, thanks, at least in part, to a generous helping of boxty and potato lore from Pádraic Óg himself. As we indulged our obsession with that homeliest of vegetables, I realised that sometimes it takes a local to celebrate the truth of what we are.