Tuesday 24 October 2017

Wanted: a place to buy sourdough and damsons

Katy McGuinness

Before we moved back to Ireland in the early 90s, we spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about where on earth we we were going to be able to buy fresh coriander.

It seems ridiculous now, but anyone with an interest in food and cooking who lived in Dublin at the time will remember just what a culinary desert the city was back then.

In London, we had discovered fresh pasta and pesto at Fratelli Camisa in Soho, and bountiful herbs in the Turkish grocers of Stoke Newington. The range of ingredients on offer at Waitrose on the Holloway Road seemed at least ten times greater than what was available at Superquinn in Blackrock, then the ne plus ultra of Dublin supermarkets, where the shelves quivered with the excitement of balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes. (It was said that many of those who thronged its aisles on a Saturday morning did their real shop at Super Crazy Prices in Ballybrack, and only came to Superquinn to see and be seen, but that may have been an urban myth.)

Gradually though, we found what we needed. That happens when you live in an area for long enough - you become adept at seeking out the good stuff. So now we know which fishmonger has the best smoked haddock and where to buy the chickens that we like.

We have a favourite greengrocer; it's the one where the green beans and peas look as if they came from the vicarage garden rather than a farm in Kenya. This week there were even damsons. We get sourdough bread in a wine shop that happens to sell great eggs, and where they give you a discount if you're buying for a fundraiser.

It's not just about food, of course. We know which newsagent will have yesterday's papers, and the cobbler who'll fix our shoes. We've got a dry cleaner that will sort out even the most "distressed" of debs' dresses and tuxes. There's even a place that will repair our toaster for a fiver. We know the women on the checkouts in the supermarket well enough to pass the time of day, and every time I walk through the village I see at least a dozen familiar faces, even if they're not people that I know by name.

It's not going to be the same in town.

Fallon & Byrne, everyone says, and of course they're right. You can get anything there. But it's going to take me a bit of time to find my feet - to stop feeling like a tourist amongst all the cosmopolitan types who do their shopping there. And I don't think you can pull up outside on the double yellows and dash in and out without getting clamped. Clamping is definitely something that's going to take a bit of getting used to.

I think that perhaps I'm going to have to invest in one of those shopping trolleys on wheels.

Sunday Independent

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