The Penn State football team landed in Ireland, breezed through customs and headed to Croke Park for lunch before practice.
The Cedar Cliff High football team landed just a bit later. The Colts immediately went on a bus tour of Dublin.
We arrived with Cedar Cliff, and the first thing we did was find Tony O’Brien our cab driver, tour guide and welcoming party to the city. The heck that it was cloudy, only 60 degrees and windy with rain approaching.
We were riding on the left side of the road and learning in style on the way to our hotel. The football teams would wait.
O’Brien is middle-aged and a Dublin native. He was friendly, polite, and so what if he cursed every five words, it was done smoothly and seemed quite natural.
“It’s just us being demonstrative, emphatic,” O’Brien explained. “No point in being offended because you’re going to hear it everywhere you go. … It’s just the way we are. That’s all you going to hear.”
But we also wanted to know about food. Somewhere we should go, something in particular we should experience as Americans on our first visit.
He started talking about coddle.
Just the sound of the word seemed a bit alarming, but I quickly understood. It’s kind of like a stew and kind of not.
O’Brien makes his own coddle with sausages, bacon, onion and potatoes. He boils it all together for two hours and lets it sit overnight. The next day, he drains away the fat, “gives it a good stirring,” and always is pleased by how the meat doesn’t change color, remaining pink.
That’s his family Friday dish.
“Most Dublin people will eat that at home. You cannot buy that dish anywhere in Ireland. You make it yourself. Super. I guarantee you that a bowl of coddle with two slices of heavily-buttered white bread, and you won’t be able to move after.
“What more do you need? Someone handing you a pint of Guinness, that would be a help.”
He then reaffirms that this dish should not be ordered in restaurants because “a chef decides to put a bit of this in and that (in it) and that breaks the tradition, and it’s not a coddle anymore, it’s what he made.”
Of course, that only made me want to go downtown and try someone’s coddle anyway, just to prove his theory. (He didn’t offer to have us over to his home for dinner).
O’Brien did say we also need to hit Leo Burdock’s Fish & Chips. He claims it is small, touristy but worth the venture.
That will come and so will the football. But, first, we arrived at our hotel and he gave us a warm good-bye and explained again about the Irish.
He smiled and dropped a few more curse words — all in good nature, of course.
“We jeer everybody. We slag you. We call you names. It’s just for fun. Don’t be offended by it,” he said. “That’s what Irish people are all about. A few drinks, a bit of a laugh and a joke and everybody goes home happy.”