I Come to Praise the Irish-Food Quarter-Aisle

Erin Go Bragh, dudes.

It being St. Patrick’s Day — at least in one hour — I’d like all of you still living in NYC to take a moment at your local grocery establishment and appreciate the 1/4 of an aisle devoted to feeding the Irish immigrant masses, those still moving to New York after all these centuries. It’s one of the things you don’t really get here in D.C. — the last one I saw was when I went to visit Boston a few weeks back — and it’s much missed by your correspondent. Having lived in Queens, where there’s an immigrant community for every nationality known to man, I’ve gotten to know and love the Irish-food section while perusing the aisles of Sunnyside, Astoria and Woodside.

You’ll know you’ve found the aisle when you see Barry’s Tea, in the familiar red box at the top of the section. It’s meant to be drunk in the Irish style, meaning strong enough that you mistake it for coffee. Also known as “the bomb”. Next to that they’ll keep the breakfast theme going with some McCann’s Irish Oatmeal. They should probably change the name from “steel cut” to “oat gravel”. For real, it’s stony. For those who like their biscuits named for what happens after you eat them, we have my grandma’s favorite Digestives tea cookies from Burton’s. It all finishes off with some Chivers jam and Fruitfield Orange Marmalade. We in America eat normal fruit preserves like grapes, peaches or strawberries, but in Ireland they like to invent weird fruits like “gooseberry”, “bramble” and “lemon curd” (?), pack them in sugar and sell them to toast fans who don’t know better. Watch out for these, they’re strange.

Under your breakfast stuff comes the Knorr and Erin soup. I’m down with Irish potato, but a little wary of the brown tomato. You can top your soup off with some HP Curry Sauce or maybe some Bisto White-Sauce Granules — what discerning eater doesn’t love granules? Also a winner is Chef brown sauce, which comes in a handy 2.5 liter (or “litre”) container for those times when you need to dip 200 dozen french fries (or “chips”) at once.

Below the Cadbury chocolates, the beauty of which I have already described, you have the junk food — a personal favorite. We all enjoy Tayto cheese ‘n onion crisps, but the real pleasure is washing it down with a cool, sugary glass of Club orange. This stuff is definitely the best-tasting orange pop in the universe, but I will concur with my friend John who said it probably shouldn’t be drunk out of the bottle, lest the world’s most well-fed bacteria colony grow in its incredibly high-fructose medium. Club lemon and Club rock shandy (again, ?) are a little disappointing, but you won’t go wrong with pop made from real orange juice. Fizzy orange: favorite of both me and my bro.

On another Irish food note, the one thing missing from the Irish food aisle is the best Irish food of all, the breakfast bangers. You have to special order them in the U.S., but they make a great gift for your family porkosseur this March.

To end on another Queens food note, the poultry market in Flushing, across the street from the U-Haul, is the proud home of the worst smell in the world. That is all.

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3 Responses to “I Come to Praise the Irish-Food Quarter-Aisle”

  1. Happy St. Pat’s Day, Pat!

  2. Every year I decide that I’m going to eat more oatmeal. I buy a tin of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, and two years later I throw it out and buy another one, planning on eating it right after I open and finish the one I bought the year before.

  3. Dude I was going to explore my Irish roots through food, but you have convinced me to stick to Guinness.

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