More than 20 years ago, we visited Ireland with infant son for a 2 week trip. A week in Dublin, then rent a car and drive the coast south and then west. It was enchanting, just like Ireland is supposed to be. But the food sucks. After 8 days of oatmeal, badly cooked eggs and overcooked meat, we hit Cork mad with hunger. That evening, we sat in our B&B and with one voice said, “Pizza.” The die was cast.
I ran downstairs and asked the nice lady is there was a pizza place in Cork. She looked as though I’d asked if the sun rose in the East. “Well, sure there ’tis,” she said, sounding just like the plucky Irish maid in a John Ford movie. “But you’ll have to pick it up. They do’t deliver.” She then gave me intricate directions, involving crossing the River Lee by a bridge and by what church to watch for before the left turn. I was pretty sure I could remember it. Besides, I’d driven in Houston and Chicago and L.A.. How hard could it be?
Always remember that terrible phrase. Anytime you ask yourself, ‘How hard could it be?’ be aware you’ve stepped into deep doo-doo, as a former president said. I ran to the rental car and took off just as the sun set and darkness began to cover Cork City.
Cork, is an medieval town, its streets and roadways apparently designed by inmates of The Home for the Hopelessly Confused. The streets twist and turn for no apparent reason, following some ancient cow path, I suppose. And the river itself winds through the city like a grouchy snake, entailing many, many bridges crossing the River Lee. Following the B&B lady’s directions as best I remembered, I discovered that the twisty roads crossed one bridge, only to lead to another bridge and another twisty road. And it was dark and I had no map. And in Cork, as in all of Ireland, there are many, many churches by which you can use to mark a left turn.
It was late and growing later. I thought I might be driving in circles through this godawful city for eternity, while my wife and child slowly starved. After an hour and my my 8th or 10th bridge crossing, I came into the town center and, saints be praised, saw it, a small building with the word ‘PIZZA’ above it and a line of young people standing in line. I joined them, smelling the lovely smell of dough baking and tomato sauce. I waited my turn and bought an extra large with pepperoni, no anchovies. I jumped in the car and raced back to the inn. I was greeted like a king.
The pizza was cold, the dough tough and soggy at the same time. It was the worst pizza I’ve had in my life. And it was delicious. We had a few days more of Irish breakfasts and pub food ahead and that was all right. I had gone into the night and found pizza. I never felt more American.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.