Starting Over: An East Texan in Western Ireland

Storm Fion, the third named storm of the season is hitting the West Coast of Ireland at the moment. (And we thought we were getting away from Galveston’s tropical storms!) Temperatures are near freezing and the wind is howling like a choir of banshees. We can’t light a peat fire in the stove because the wind is so strong it blows the smoke back down the chimney and into the living room!

We are under a Yellow Snow alert, which my wife finds hilarious.

A Status Yellow snow and ice warning for the entire country remains in place until 9am on Wednesday morning.

A Status Orange wind warning for Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Clare, Cork and Kerry is in place until 3am as Storm Fionn will bring wind speeds of 65 to 80 km/h and gusts of up to 120 km/hr.

The move from Texas to Ireland hasn’t been an entirely smooth transition for the family. There’s the weather, there’s the television withdrawal (we don’t have a TV set in our rent house), and there’s the lack of hot and spicy food. Worst of all there was the Basset affair.

After asking for an insane amount of paperwork and charging us a hefty fee to transport Frances, the family Basset, Air France personnel in Paris suddenly announced that, no, Air France doesn’t fly dogs. My darling wife had to stay behind while the rest of us flew to Dublin.

Her hair-raising account of that adventure and her feelings about Air France can be found here.


Finally, Frances arrived via cargo flight last weekend. We drove to Dublin airport to pick her up, and we are now joyfully reunited and living in 200 year-old stone cottage on the foothills of The Burren.

Yes, we have snow, sleet, hail, driving rain and wind for the last few days, but then it will inexplicably turn sunny and beautiful for a few minutes. Schizophrenic weather, Kelly calls it.

Thankfully, my  total immersion into the Irish food scene is keeping me entertained. More about that at — my new website for Irish food tourists.

Traveling Ireland as a tourist has a familiar feel about it. In the year 2000,  I took a job as the anonymous food critic at the Houston Press. I moved to Space City knowing nothing about the local food scene. What a joy it was to drive around and discover all all the innovative eateries, old barbecue and Tex-Mex joints, and mom and pop multicultural spots the city is famous for.

Today I am full of that same innocent enthusiasm as I travel around Ireland discovering all the cool things to eat. The lamb and pork here are amazing. I have never seen so many varieties of bacon in my life.

And then there’s the seafood! I went from the bounty of Galveston Bay to the riches of Galway Bay. Lucky me!

My new home in Western Ireland is famous for oysters (like these natives I got at Monk’s Seafood in Ballyvaughn) and lobster (like this one from Linnane’s Lobster Bar in New Quay, three miles from my house).  I am making a pig of myself in both of these categories. I am also eating a lot of seaweed! Much more about that later.

All in all, we are getting our new lives sorted out. Kelly and the kids are in school and I am doing a lot of cooking. There’s plenty of EU red tape to deal with, but the Irish people are so kind and friendly, you just don’t mind it much.

I will see ya’ll back in Houston for the 8th Annual Foodways Texas Symposium, April 12-14, where Keeley Steensen and I will be presenting our new short film Donut People, about the Cambodian community in East Texas and their ubiquitous donut shops.

Buy your tickets now!