Tourism is the dominant industry in the Burren region of Western Ireland. Now the Burren has gone eerily quiet. No bright green “Paddy Wagon” tour busses whizzing along the narrow roads. No crazy German kids hiking with oversize backpacks. And no business for the pubs, restaurants, hotels, Airbnb flats and roadside attractions that are normally teeming with tourists this time of year. The Clare newspaper reported that the local economy has gone off a cliff.
I am supposed to be in Texas right now. On March 28, I was scheduled to give a talk at the 10th Annual Foodways Texas Symposium in San Antonio. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. The Corona virus pandemic swallowed up the world as we know it. My Aer Lingus flight was cancelled, and so was my Spring trip to Texas.
Today is Friday April 17. The current death toll in the Republic of Ireland is 486. There was a lot of sadness here on the death of John Prine, who had a summer home nearby and was frequently seen in the local pubs.
Three weeks ago, on Friday March 27th, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar ordered Ireland to go on lockdown. You can only leave your house for groceries, medical necessities and exercise. The rules were later toughened to limit the distance you could travel for exercise to 2 kilometers.
It’s been a trying time. Granted, there are worse places to be stuck for weeks on end. I can sit for hours and admire the view out my back window. Rural Ireland is certainly beautiful, but we miss Uber Eats and drive-through lanes. The nearest restaurant doing “takeaway” as they call it is a 15-minute drive.
Day to day life is the regular routine. I mow the lawn a lot more than I used to. And its easier to make time for mundane chores. But as daughter Ava pithily observed last night: “You are doing exactly the same thing you always do. Hanging around at home, cooking and gardening.”
Well, partially true anyway. I used to spend hours everyday ferrying children to school and back and getting them to their sports events. And I once enjoyed driving around Ireland checking out markets, fishmongers and restaurants too. Now I am mostly confined to my own kitchen.
Wrote a facebook post about “boredom baking” being the opposite of “rage baking.” I am keeping the family in fresh bread and broadening my horizons as a boulanger. I still use a bread machine to mix, knead and rise the dough, but I’m turning out all kinds of bauguettes, boules, pizzas and rolls. I think I’ll call this batch pain de campagne.
I’m also very glad I invested in a few bags of oysters in Pouldoody Bay, where I live. Oyster farmer Feargal Langley was kind enough to sell me four bags on my own little trestle. They are only exposed on a very low tide, so timing is everything.
My friend Dave Donohue brings me a couple of dozen every time he goes down to check his own bags. Last month, he brought me a huge 9-inch oyster which I cooked on the grill with garlic butter. It was so big, I had to cut it into four pieces to eat it. Good lord it was tasty.
Kelly continues to progress on her Ph.D at Burren College of Art. One of her fellow doctoral students is a Chinese portrait artist named Qi Chen. He created this portrait of me for a recent show. Not sure if its just the Covid consciousness talking, but do you think I look a little Chinese here, or maybe like a descendant of Genghis Khan?
I hope you and your family are safe, dear reader. We are doing our best to stay out of harm’s way here–and wondering what life will be like when the pandemic is over.