Sunday, September 21, 2008

21 September 2008: Irish

OK, so we're not really Irish. Still, the it was worth the trip down to Indy for their 13th Annual Irish Festival yesterday, just to get a little flavour of home-ish, and to see how many people in Indiana really do think they're Irish.

The idea is simple enough: it seems that plenty of people in Indiana are Irish (for this read: 'have Irish ancestry at some point if you go back a few generations'), so the town holds a festival every year to allow these folks to discover their roots a little through buying green tee-shirts, browsing family name history books and eating authentic Irish food provided by the town's Irish pubs (typical menu items yesterday included barbecue pork and burgers, with occasional yet honourable mentions of 'bangers and mash', 'Irish stew' (which was very nice) and 'scotch eggs' that did look, actually, like scotch eggs).

Of course, Guiness and even a little Bushmills (not single malt, just the regular blended stuff) was present for those enjoying a tipple, and there was even a demonstration by the Indianapolis Hurling team (which actually showed a little more skill than I remember seeing when I used to occasionally watch the stuff on Setanta back when it was known for showing GAA rather than poorly-audienced England games). There was a rugby tournament taking place somewhere, although we never found it, and naturally we found an importer man selling Rowntree's, Cadbury's and the like for two dollars a packet (standard price for Fruit Gums in the US import stores: $1.25). However, at least he was actually from Ireland.

The highlight of the day, of course, was the music. While there were many bands, all playing various reels and versions of 'Whiskey In The Jar' (not the Thin Lizzy version), our favourites were 'The Irish Airs', a four-piece led by a gentleman from Galway who kept asking us to shout out requests for songs, which he always responded by refusing to play for some reason or another. Still, the songs were authentic (apart from one Johnny Cash number towards the end, which I still can't work out) and everyone joined in.

At one point he asked "have we got any Irish people here today?"

About half the audience put there hands up.

The thunder arrived at 2.30pm. We left shortly after and within a short period the rain began lashing down. I don't know how the festival fared after this unexpected interruption, but I as the rain didn't last, I imagine it picked up again and carried on long into the night. We, meanwhile had other business to attend to.

And that business involved effectively closing the chapter of the book of our lives called "trying to locate things from the UK in or around Indiana". As you may have noticed, the vast majority of blogs this year have been about, to a greater or lesser extent, attempting to see what we can and can't find over here in the US. Texas was hit-and-miss, and the hits were generally at Central Market, which is a Texas-only establishment. Since arriving in Hoosier country, we've managed to locate a local supermarket selling British and Irish cheeses, another local supermarket with a small British section (Fruit Gums $1.25), a far-flung import store near Cincinnati selling everything including bacon (imported and frozen) and, as you'll know if you scroll down a couple of blogs, milk of sufficient goodness that you can make clotted cream out of it.

And yet, we were still slightly short on a few items. Our own particular favourite brand of Green Thai curry paste (Jungle Jim's carries a few, but not the one we used to like from Waitrose), good fresh naan bread, decent sausages (Lincolnshire if possible) and (and this one's proved very elusive) a cut of meat known as 'shoulder of lamb'.

Shoulder of lamb is recommended by both myself and Jamie Oliver as the best cut for roasting. Leg is nice, but often not as flavoursome and tender as you can get the shoulder, as it's not so fatty. But try telling that to the local meat suppliers in Kokomo - the couple that do carry lamb will not supply a whole shoulder, although they do sometimes supply it pre-cut into chops for you. The organic sheep farm somewhere in the region will do it, but not as a standard cut, and we haven't had the time or the money to investigate the possibility of buying an entire sheep from them as seems to be the approach you have to take in order to get an un-sliced shoulder.

But yesterday, in we went to Whole Foods down there in Indy, and asked the man if he had a shoulder of lamb.

Sure, he said, and brought it out.

I blinked a couple of times as he weighed it and charged far more money than you'd normally be willing to pay for a shoulder of lamb. Still, you can get it, and that's the point.

Then we walked around the rest of the shop and found our favourite Green Thai curry paste, fresh naan bread, a variety of international cheeses and, as usual amidst the cheese, the legendary imported UHT Clotted Cream, previously only seen at Central Market. At $7.99 for the jar though, it seems substantially cheaper to make it, especially as this Whole Foods also stocked not only Traders Point Creamery fresh milk, but also some locally-produced organic 'heavy whipping cream', which together will make a far better version of clotted cream at less of a price, and still leave milk left over.

So, sausages apart, that closes the book. Our Irish importer dude from the festival did claim to be about to start importing good quality Irish sausages ("five to the pound" and he's talking weight not currency), but frankly given the amount of lamb I just ate for lunch I could probably do without the cholesterol impact of sausages.

The point is this, however: we may indeed be a long way from Waitrose and Uptons, but one way or another, if we really really need something, we can get it.

And that's a comfort. Now, on with our lives...


Doug said...

which one? blue dragon or maseman?

DuncMcRae said...

Actually, the glorious "Keow Wan Green Curry Paste" from the Thai Taste people, which has NO FISH in it, huzzah! If you buy the 400g tub version then it comes in a plastic wrapper that you snip the end off (and then keep in the tub, presumably) but when you squeeze it out it looks like just green poo.

Just like you get after going to White Castle.

Whiskers said...

After reading about all the Irish food, makes me long for a good White Castle to join me Duncan???

But next on our list of eateries is Rathskeller (good werst!)
And great beer, my favs: HofBrau Dunkel and Klosterbrauerei Ettaler Dunkle

Doug said...

ahh yes and you mustn't mistake it for a sauce... its a paste, the first time I tried it the tub I had was a 400g one imported from thailand, couldn't read the instructions so just dropped a generous amount in there and cooked away.

it took weeks for my sinuses to recover.

What about those yankees?! Small comfort for an embattled O's fan but I mostly get my kicks from Southampton FC nowadays... oh nuts.

Doug said...

though Portsmouth conceding 10 in the last two games is making me feel a bit better.

DuncMcRae said...

Pompey losing 6-0 made my day during my final afternoon in Cincinnati. Saints losing at the same time didn't seem to matter so much because they always lose anyway.

That said, I'm more hopeful for Saints now than I was at beginning of season: I'm now hopeful that they'll go into administration rather than fold altogether. Remember when we used to spend 2.5 million on the likes of Jelle Van Damme? Sheesh, seems a world away now.

DuncMcRae said...

BTW Whiskers - going to the Oktoberfest tonight?