Blasanna an Domhain is a celebration of the new flavours and foods arriving in Ireland. There are some special recipes for weddings and for religious feasts but mostly it is everyday food; food that tastes of home.
It is the small things that people miss most.
Dante was in exile from Florence in 1300 when he wrote:
“.. . You shall leave everything you love most:
this is the arrow that the bow of exile
shoots first. You are to know the bitter taste
of others’ bread, how salt it is, and know
how hard a path it is for one who goes
ascending and descending others’ stairs . . .”
DanteParadiso, XVII, 55-60
Our long standing traditions of taking rashers and sausages back to England; of sending boxes of teabags and Tayto crisps to the US or Germany have been augmented by new customs from the new Irish peoples. Honey made on a small farm by the Adriatic is posted to family members living in Athlone. Shoppers go to a small shop above an African hairdresser in Connaught Street to buy Maggi, a distinctive red foil-wrapped stock cube. This is on sale beside sacks of semolina and freezers full of croca fish.
Most of the ingredients mentioned (with the possible exception of porcupine!) are available in the African, Asian and eastern European shops now open in the larger Irish towns and cities.
This recipe book is unusual in another aspect. Contributors to this recipe book, who so generously gave of their time and hospitality, are, for the most part, unable to buy and cook food of their own choosing. They must live under the Irish government Dispersal and Direct provision scheme while waiting for their application for refugee status to be decided. This process can take up to three years, during which time they are not allowed to work or study.
One such location is Lissywollen, a mobile home site in Athlone. Set meals are provided in a communal canteen. Each adult receives 19 euro a week and each child 9.5 euro.
I have taken down the recipes as given so not all provide exact measurements. (Ask several people for the recipe for boxty or Irish stew and you will come away with different measurements, a variation on a theme.) As a rough guide I suggest using standard measurements for meat and other ingredients e.g. for a meal for 4- 6 people use half to one kilo of meat. Experiment and enjoy the unlikely combinations of textures and tastes!
About the Author
Nell Regan was born in London in 1969 of Irish parents and raised in Dublin. She has a BA in history from UCD and subsequently worked as a freelance researcher for television and radio documentaries as well as for educational publications. Her biography of labour leader Helena Molony was published in 2001 in Female Activists, Irish Women and Change, 1900-1960, Eds. Mary Cullen and Maria Luddy, Woodfield Press, Dublin, and she is also a contributor to the Field Day Anthology Vol. 4, Cork University Press. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from The Poets’ House, Donegal/ Lancaster University and her poetry has been published widely in magazines and anthologised in Breaking the Skin, Vol. 2; New Irish Poetry, Black Mountain Press, Co. Antrim. (2002)
She has two poetry collections coming out this year; Dispatches from Lapwing Press, Belfast and Performance, a limited edition hand made book in collaboration with visual artist Una Campbell, from Yoke publications. She currently teaches in Dublin.
The hard work of New Horizon volunteers and the strong relationships they have built up with people on the Lissywollen site, ensured that the idea of the project and my inquisitiveness was quickly accepted. While doing my research I have been warmly welcomed into peoples’ homes.
Thank you to Sue Callaghan for her unstinting hospitality on my many trips down to Athlone.
To Westmeath County Council Community Action Scheme 2003 for the generous funding that made this possible.
To Katie Long, Saoirse O’Brien, Caroline FitzGerald and Fíona Ní Chinnéide for suggestions and proofreading.
To Fidelma McCabe for agreeing at very short notice to do graphics.
To Westmeath Arts officer Catherine O’Kelly, for her financial and moral support at many stages of the project.
To the staff of the accommodation site in Athlone.
To Athlone Community Taskforce, for help sourcing finance.
To Harmony Community Development program for support.
Above all, to the contributors.