In the early eighties, I left San Francisco and headed off for a six-month adventure in Dublin, Ireland. I went to live with my sister Jody and experience life in another country.
I arrived on a typical Dublin day; cold, wet, and dreary. I was ecstatic when I set eyes on Jody in the airport. She had come with her friend “Jacko” to pick me up. I was missing her immensely, since she left San Francisco to follow a flame to Dublin. My parents seized the opportunity to send their tween-angst-filled daughter off to Ireland – a much needed break for them and an exciting opportunity for me to visit my big sister, 13 years my senior.
Right away, Jody enrolled me in St. Catherine’s, a Catholic Montessori in Dublin. There, I learned to sing Catholic hymns beautifully (a huge departure from all of the songs I had learned in Jewish summer camp), prepare shepherds pie, and learn basic Gaelic, which I’m sad to say, has come in handy not at all! Not only was I the school’s only Jewish student, but I was the lone American. Classmates were fascinated by me, tempted to poke sticks at me, and unsure of what to make of this curly-haired, left-wing-raised, wacky kid from San Francisco.
After school, I occasionally took disco classes in downtown Dublin, or played around in the open field outside our house with a neighbor friend.
In need of extra-curricular activities, I quickly learned the ‘lay of the land’ in Jody’s kitchen, which she shared with her boyfriend and another couple who rented the house with them. In their kitchen, was a giant sack of potatoes slumped against the wall next to the oven. Cooking – already my most beloved hobby – was something I very quickly took solace in. Taking advantage of this wealth of potatoes in our kitchen was a welcomed challenge. On a regular basis, I would return from school and make either French fries (“chips”) or potato latkes.
Jody’s Jewish friends very quickly caught onto the afternoon latke making tradition and would occasionally show up unannounced, lining up on the front stoop with plate and fork in hand. Okay, I think it was just one friend, but I was clearly very popular with her.
My mom came to pick me up from Dublin at the end of the school year. We met up with my father in London, and then traveled to Denmark to visit family. As much as I was thrilled to spend a large chunk of time with my sister, I was understandably eager to travel back home with my folks and return to the familiar.
Back in San Francisco, I proudly showed off my Irish brogue (lasting all but two weeks), shepherds pie expertise, disco moves, and a new-wave music catalog, which hadn’t yet made its way to the States. I was thinking I was pretty cool.
Last night, St. Patrick’s Day Eve, I made shepherds pie with Caleb and Sadie. This dish allowed me to tell tales of my time in Ireland, while hanging out with my kiddos at the end of a long week.
After we polished off our hearty Irish comfort-food, we ended the meal with ice cream sundaes made with Strauss Family Farms Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, toasted almonds, and warm fleur de sel caramel sauce. Caleb played us an after dinner tune on his guitar and I reflected a bit on the past 30 years. Interesting thing, this life continuum. I love what I have learned and have taken with me along the way, and the opportunities I now have to share these parts of my personal tapestry with my children.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Click for shepherds pie recipe (Addition: add shredded cheddar before placing in oven.)