I was in Cork last weekend and I took a trip into the city to Waterstones to buy some books for my upcoming holiday in France. Waterstones, like Hodges & Figgis in Dublin, is one of the last bastions of serious bookshops in Ireland. The selection was good enough for me to disappear for a couple of hours, grazing the shelves like an elk devouring the last blades of grass before the arctic winter sets in. Every time I find myself in Patrick Street I expect to see advertising posters stuck to the doors of the shop where Waterstones used to be, but much to my delight that hasn’t happened yet.
Clutching my eclectic mix of serious and frivolous tomes I emerged into sunshine – rare in that city and the reason I’ve taken to calling it New Atlantis. Despite the hustle people were actually smiling and even nodding occasionally at complete strangers; something not that unusual in Cork really but even more pronounced when the sun shines.
It was at that moment, when the sun was warm on my face and people were looking at each other a little less like members of warring tribes, that the aroma of cooking found my welcoming nostrils. Food stalls lined the street and each promised a culinary adventure unique to their little patch of Patrick Street. Everything from Rebel Burgers to homemade chocolate could be purchased and consumed within a few dozen yards. I wanted some of what was on offer, hell I wanted some of everything on offer! And then it kicked in, I don’t eat on the street, not even an ice cream, never mind a fully fledged Rebel Burger.
My late mother wasn’t very fond of street eating and discouraged it at every opportunity. The notion stuck with me and to this day eating in public is a complete no-no. Intellectually I realise that this is nonsense and even though I love to watch people enjoy food while strolling down the street I can never do it myself. So, all these lovely stalls with all these delicacies and I just can’t bring myself to sample any of it. The urge to break out in Thailand last year and eat in the street nearly killed me and I had to pass up the chance of eating fried locusts dipped in honey, amongst other local delicacies.
So there’s a habit I intend kicking this year on holiday and I’ll make every effort to find fresh on-street cooking to help me over my irrational childhood programming. You just watch me!