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Like many folks this past Tuesday, I celebrated St. Patrick’s day. While I have my doubts as to how much the day celebrates Irish heritage as much it provides folks with a justification to drink until they are green to the gills, it is still a light-hearted holiday for me. We watched a local parade, then enjoyed some corned beef and cabbage later at my dad’s house. With a Black and Tan appetizer, of course.
Earlier this month, I came across this article in the NY Times titled “The Lost Art of the Irish Pub“. The article begins:
“A good pub is a place devoted to conversation, with drink as the lubricant,” Mr. Barich said one evening last week. “In an American bar, the minute you finish your drink they say, ‘Do you want another?’ You’d never see that in a good pub.”
Bill Barich, an author, went on a hunt to find a traditional Irish pub. He found this hunt to be more difficult than you would think, considering he was searching in a country that is home to over 12,000 pubs:
In years past, a pub was a family-run business, and the publican more than likely lived upstairs — an arrangement that created an intimacy across the bar.
“A good publican is a person with character, concerned about the welfare of patrons,” Mr. Barich said. That a barman could aspire to one day own a pub himself made for a system of dues paying that also resulted in better service.
But with trophy pubs now commanding as much as $8 million, a shift has been made to partnerships or corporations that may own and manage several bars. At the same time, more Irish are drinking wine, and drinking at home or in restaurants, chipping away at the social relevance of pubs.
What I found particularly interesting was this observation from Larry Kirwan, a singer from a NYC-based Irish rock band who was talking about a pub from his hometown.
The pub, Mary’s Bar, is basically one room and was run until recently by a now-deceased publican who was known to break out a harmonica and lead impromptu sing-alongs.
In pubs like Mary’s, Mr. Kirwan said, “there’s almost a Talmudic sense of rules and conventions to be observed.” Chief among them is not getting overly plastered.
“Nobody wants drunks in Irish pubs because they’re boring,” he said, “and the last thing you want to be called is boring.”
Instead, traditional pubs foster warmth and fraternity.
Undoubtedly, Kirwan would have been dismayed at some of the drunken behavior I saw in Lawrence KS on Tuesday.
Fortunately, Barich’s pub hunt had a happy ending:
Stepping inside, Mr. Barich was met by a wood bar that has been there since the 1830s, and a publican, Eugene Kavanagh, who lives above the business and is so devoted to his pub’s continued existence that he had been prepared to put it in a trust if none of his children wanted to take over. (It was unnecessary.)
“It’s not my job,” he told the writer. “It’s my life.”
Naturally, Mr. Barich sat down and ordered a pint.
Sláinte, Mr. Barich. Sláinte!
Fortunately, we have not really been affected by the economy.
Yet. Although, I do feel really, really lucky that we have been given a sort of “heads up” that it might be wise to ramp back on our spending.
So, while we are counting our lucky, lucky stars, we still have invoked some cutbacks. It’s just common sense in this economic environment, no? One of the first slashes at our so-called budget was in the area of Eating Out.
The yummy but expensive spot where we used to get our weekly Thai fix? Out.
The lovely but expensive little spot in downtown Kansas City that served fresh, crunchy salads and delicious tapas? Out.
Sushi lovingly carved right before your eyes? Out.
The mouth-watering, but slightly expensive Persian buffet that we used to frequent so much that I nearly went into labor with our 2nd child there? Out.
This list goes on, but the gist is this: we are still eating out as frequently, but we are spending less money. This has translated into us frequenting a nearby deli and a local Mexican restaurant far more often than we had in the past. Furthermore, that same Mexican restaurant actually lowered its prices. Whoa.
One of my shallow concerns in all of this is that my favorite high-end local establishments will not survive this economic environment and that they will close up shop by the time I can start frequenting them again.
Damn, how I miss meal with menu items that have me running for a dictionary. But an enchilada with poblanas sauce is not so shabby, either, so I cannot complain too much.
Lately, I have been utterly obsessed with getting things organized in my house. Furniture is getting dusted, then rearranged. Superfluous pieces are getting moved to the garage in anticipation of our annual neighborhood garage sale. Long-neglected books are getting bagged and taken to a used bookstore for re-sale. Clothing and other household items are getting bagged and donated to a local charity.
All of this “fresh start” activity in my Real Life is bleeding over into my Virtual Life and as such, regular posting shall resume here. I am inspired to dust off this place and get going. Beginning next week, you will see restaurant industry happenings, FoodieBytes happenings and a new feature on Thursdays called The Chef’s Special. Each Thursday, we will feature a few food bloggers from all over the country. Truthfully, I was only going to feature one blogger each week, but there are just too many yummy food bloggers out there to limit ourselves to just one a week, no?
The Rookie Catching Her Inaugural Japanese Steakhouse Shrimp
Our 18 month old daughter tries everything and anything right now. Sure, that means she hits a hot pepper every now and then, but overall, she is none worse for the wear.