Before I begin this post, I want to share with you the official weather forecast for next week from the National Weather Service in Ireland. It is almost poetic:
“There is a possibility that warm Continental air may then push in over Ireland over the following days bringing some fine, summer weather with temperatures well into the twenties. Although this is still far from certain, it is a distinct possibility”
I decided after reading this subtly contradictory weather report, I could make a decent living as a meteorologist in Ireland.
I have been back home in Ireland 2 weeks today and the topic foremost on everyone’s lips when exchanging casual pleasantries is most definitely the weather, or should I say, the lack of any kind of weather remotely reminiscent of Summer. I shouldn’t even think about jumping on the band wagon since I am lucky enough to get to spend the entire Summer with my family, but it has become a source of amusement for me, and talking about it helps me realize that there may even be benefits to crappy weather and cryptic weather reports!
This story sums up the Irish weather pretty nicely: The day after I arrived in Ireland was breezy and sunny which was a welcome relief after coming from the United States where I was wilting in 100 degree temperatures. I put on a dress and sandals and actually felt a little chilly, but my sister reminded me that this was warm for her and I would acclimate. My sister happy to have me around decided that for it to fully feel like Summer was officially here she should buy a barbecue (which she did!). As it turned out, that was the only real nice day for the next two weeks.
It was always the same: I would wake up in the morning, open the curtains and the sky would look promising, with bits of blue sky visible through vast swaths of very puffy clouds. I would make plans to go to a beach, or for a walk or to visit some ruined castle or other, and right when we were all packed and heading for fun, the rain would come pelting down. Plans would change, substituted for a possible museum visit, movie, or even just relaxing inside with a book, and then the sun would come out. I made the sensible decision to get back into long pants with a sweater handy, and stop smiling and pretending to be perfectly happy in t-shirts and shorts – brrrr!
That is until two days ago when miracle of miracles, late in the morning the sun came out and decided to stay. What would I do with all this fine weather? Right when I was planning a possible outing to a beach, our friend Tom appeared at the back door. My earliest memory of Tom’s family was when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and going to his house just before Christmas, where his father who was a doctor, had a clinic. It was late in the evening and I remember driving the three miles to his house in the cold and dark, shivering in the back of the car under a blanket. I remember his rolled up shirt sleeves, and his hands smelling of soap as he felt my glands while consoling me saying I would feel better soon. People you spend your life in close proximity to, even if your ties are just the fact that you lived in the same town, shopped in the same supermarket and knew the same bumps on the roads when you rode your bike, are connections that bind you to those people for your entire life. You have a shared commonality and familiar things are automatic magnetizers.
So when Tom showed up at the back door I didn’t think twice about telling him he just had to assemble the barbecue that had been sitting in a box for the past two weeks. He told me that all of “the sisters” in our house were the same, ordering him to do something for them at a moment’s notice. I ignored his complaining and handed him scissors to cut the black binding holding the box together. A half hour later my nephew Colm appeared, calling in to see his cousins for the first time since last year. After lots of hugs and excited hellos we headed to the backyard only to find Tom looking slightly overwhelmed with finicky metal barbecue parts and an even more confusing instruction manual.
Colm was ordered to work by his Auntie (that would be me!) and after about two hours our shiny new barbecue was ready to be fired up. The joke throughout the assemble process was that it would rain the moment plans were made to actually have a barbecue. And, right when the last bolt was in place and the grill was situated along the wall by the backdoor steps, it began to rain. I quickly covered the top with the box as we had no cover for it yet and said there would be a barbecue no matter what the weather and that Tom was invited. He said he would be happy to show up “if it wasn’t raining”
Well, it stopped raining and the sun (mixed with clouds of course) came out. June arrived home armed with lots of meat and vegetables for grilling. I felt like it was Summer for the first time and switched from drinking red wine to opening a bottle of fresh, crisp prosecco which myself and June drank from my mother’s precious Millenium Waterford Crystal glasses, as a reminder of her, and how she loved a good dinner party. Tom arrived amused that it wasn’t raining, and less amused when I told him he was in charge of barbecuing everything that needed barbecuing! I took care of the pasta dish, made sure the table was set and that glasses were topped up. And, when another old friend of the family showed up he was promptly handed a drink, and it appeared that a family reunion of sorts was under way.
As food was being cooked, talk finally drifted from the weather, and when I noticed this change, it dawned on me how much we all had being obsessing and pinning our hopes of happiness upon whether the sun would shine or not? If this was winter, we would have accepted the constant gloom and gotten on with our lives. I decided to try as hard as I could to forget about the fact that it was summer, and that if it rained all day long for the next 6 weeks (please God, no!), I would do my utmost to make the best of it.
We ate outside, enjoying the light breeze while catching up on everyone’s news. We all had ravenous appetites and even ate the bits of meat that Tom half apologised for burning. It was his very first forray into being the grill master, but now he was more experienced than most of the people eating dinner together, which means he will most likely be roped into doing it again!
Did it rain when the table was cleared and we had just gotten ourselves inside the house: most definitely.
Spaghetti With Lemon, Greens & Olives (serves 4-6)
*This dish can be a Blood Type A Friendly Diet Dish if you omit the Butter & Black Olives (green are fine)*
You will need:
juice & zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or, 1 good quality bouillon cube & 1 1/2 cups water)
1 head escarole, washed & roughly chopped *you could also use 3 heads of Little Gem lettuce or 2 heads of Butter or Boston lettuce*
2 cups chopped greens such as lettuce or spinach leaves (to be added at the end)
1 1/2 cups mixed green and black olive (try to use something good like Kalamata)
1 tbs chopped thyme leaves
2 tbs good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand)
1 tsp sea-salt, and more to taste (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes)
2 tbs unsalted butter (optional)
1 – Cook pasta according to instructions. While pasta is cooking, get the rest of the dish ready.
2 – Put large saute pan (one that will hold the completed dish) on low/medium heat and add the bouillon cube to the pan with about 2 tbs of water. If not using bouillon cube, go to next step.
3 – When bouillon cube has turned to a pasta, add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1 tbs of the butter and swirl ingredients together with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the broth (or water), along with the salt and bring to a simmer.
4 – Add the chopped greens and cover pan with lid and simmer very gently for 5 minutes.
5 – While broth is simmering, chop thyme leaves and combine with the olives and extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl. When pasta has cooked, drain and add to simmered broth, along with the olive mixture, 1 tbs butter, and 2 cups of reserved chopped greens. Turn off pan. Taste for addition of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Serve as it (which would then lend itself to some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese) or with whatever protein you would like along with it (in our case barbecue chicken, sausages and grilled onions!)