Twist ties. Heavy duty foil. Crushed tomatoes. A salty, crunchy snack other than potato chips. These are all things that cannot be found in our corner of Ireland. Rumor has it that there’s a Marks & Spencer in Dublin where such luxuries abound, but in Northwest Mayo we are, as my Grandma Mary would say, SOL. I’d brought some Q-tips over (or ear buds, as they’re known here), bound together in a twist tie. Believe me, that thing is like gold around the house. I’ve frisked the kids for it and I believe I would go through the trash to find it; thankfully it hasn’t come to that yet. I think of the drawer at home where the twist ties collect, mate, reproduce and plot their next move in world domination. I will be kinder to them upon my return to Maine.
As for the foil, I don’t usually need heavy duty foil. The standard stuff will do. But foil over here is thin and tears easily. One might as well not use it because as you wrap up something the foil rips and the whole point of wrapping it up is moot. I admire Ireland for banning stores from distributing free grocery bags to customers and think perhaps this is their subtle way of eliminating foil from everyday use. Nevertheless I am on a quest for heavier foil.
The lack of crushed tomatoes is pretty easy to deal with, thanks to the fact that there’s an immersion blender here in the house. I make a lot of soups with crushed tomatoes as a base and canned chopped tomatoes + blender = mighty fine soup base.
This country is MAD about crisps. There is an entire aisle of every grocery store devoted to potato chips (crisps). They are usually sold in mega-packs of anywhere from 12 – 40 small bags swooped up in one giant bag. The brands of choice around here are Walker’s, Sam Spudz and Tayto. The flavors are out of control. Standard flavors are cheese and onion, salt and vinegar, and plain. But very quickly you wade into some wild stuff such as Peking Duck, Chocolate - Chile, and my very personal favorite (for insane concept – not for taste) Cajun Squirrel. I am not making this up. I am certain that they would not have to resort to such wing nut flavors (and I am guessing that there probably is a “wing nut” flavor in development) if they would just branch out from crisps into other salt crunchy snacks: tortilla chips, pretzels, chex mix, soy crisps, fritos, etc. Let the creativity blossom in new shapes, textures, and grains. We did manage to find pretzels in an odd EU grocery depot called Lidl. What are pretzels called in Ireland? “Salt sticks”. You have to give them points for clarity.