Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eating Environmentally

So when I first got to Ireland, I was dismayed at the lack of widely available all-natural organic etc. etc. foods, so much so that I thought it would be pretty much impossible for me to ever make a permanent home here. As you may have noticed, I'm kind of big on environmental issues, and I'm in the very long process of altering my lifestyle to make it as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as is reasonably possible. How could I maintain that in a country without Whole Foods?

But as I've lived here longer, I've become more and more aware of the many alternatives to shopping at Tesco that are available. I've concluded that my real problem lies in UCD's location: the suburbs. Okay, I exaggerate, but still, on the scatter graph that is Dublin city, UCD is a bit of an outlier. On Saturday I cycled into town to go to the Asia Market and get some tofu (which turned out to be organic) on the cheap. While I was there, I also picked up some granola for breakfast from a small shop nearby selling grains and legumes and teas and such in bulk, and a salad from Blazing Salads Food Company (har har), which also stocked various organic, veg(etari)an-friendly stuff (I'm going back for the peanut butter soon). This was within a block or two, maybe a 10-minute walk away from the Temple Bar Food Market. Were I to attend Trinity, I would hardly have to leave the house to accumulate my idealized food stuffs, and I'd be much less restricted by schedules, both of my own and of the markets'.

Moving away from city centre, however, things get more dispersed. I experimented with a new market on Sunday, in Ranelagh, a bit closer than the one in Temple Bar but far, far smaller. Denis Healy was there, too, though, so I got all my produce, and there was a really good baker stand where I got the best wholegrain sandwich bread of my life, and an Italian man selling pasta and sauces that were really, really good (I sampled the pesto, which pretty much lived up to his claim of "best in the world") but too expensive for me to justify when I already have a load of pasta in the pantry that I don't use sauce much on anyway. At any rate, there's that one in Ranelagh, another small one on Wednesdays in the even-closer Stillorgan (though the ride there has more hills), which is across from an expensive but well-stocked Health Store (fake ham lunchmeat!), and a fresh produce shop in Donnybrook that's pretty close but doesn't seem to indicate organic-ness or local-ness on its goods. Oh, and Donnybrook Fair, but they're a gourmet shop and therefore charge gourmet prices. Even Tesco, when it comes down to it, carries several organic products:some produce and dairy, a small meat and fish section, and Bunalun. Bunalun is an organic food company that makes things like pasta and orange juice and rice cakes and honey and other kind of basics, and which I'm starting to see more places - like Centra now that they've revamped and expanded their little shop in Merville.

So there are, in fact, a number of options when it comes to eating consciously in Dublin, particularly if you live in the city. They're just not shoved in your face with a zillion different labels and certifications, probably because its still more of a niche industry here. It is a bit annoying how often organic gets grouped in with the gluten-free items (I like my gluten!), and you do have to pay a bit more in the stores, but the farmers market prices can actually be cheaper that conventionally grown produce at, say, Tesco. And theirs is fresher and tastier anyway, so it's totally worth it.

All that said, I would like to assert that I still prefer living in the states, for a variety of other reasons, including awareness. The fact that this stuff is available in Dublin doesn't mean that people are flocking to it, and the Irish attitude to other environmental concerns is severely lacking. Littering is not really seen as a problem, a fact not helped by the dirth of rubbish bins in the city. And where there aren't trash cans, there also aren't bike racks. I used to wonder why everyone had a cable lock when U-locks are safer...then I realized that its because you have to be able to fasten your bike to any tall poll available, because bike racks are rare and usually full where present. Combined with horrible driver awareness of cyclists and occasionally disappearing bike lanes, it's a pretty effective way of discouraging people from using bikes to get around. I think a bit more public activism is in order, but maybe that's just my Americanness talking.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Busy bee!

Well, I guess you can say I've settled back into the swing of things. A lot has been going on, though nothing particularly momentous. Tommy and his brother are running an Open Mic at the Bernard Shaw pub on Tuesday nights, so I've been to that a few times, and there's another open mic on campus on Wednesdays. It's all making me think that maybe I should get something together to play...especially since the on-campus one gives you a free pint for performing. We'll see.

Gosh, what's been happening all this month?! Well, on the 5th it was Pancake Tuesday, so I used a kilo of flour in making American pancakes (assisted by Zoë and Mel) with various fillings. I think I ate about a dozen pancakes in a few hours. Good thing I started at the gym the next day: that's right, I'm now a member of Crunch Fitness. I've actually been going regularly, too, so hopefully progress is being made there. On the 7th, Kíla performed at the student bar and were AWESOME. The middle of the crowd was just a bunch of sweaty shirtless guys throwing themselves at each other. It was great. Also great was the showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Sugar Club the next night. There was much dressing up and gender ambiguity, as one would expect from such a show. I hope they have another one before I leave, because only Mel was able to make it to this one, and I think having a big crowd with me would make it that much better.

This past Saturday I got to see Tommy & Lynchy's new place. They've moved into the house where Tommy's older brother is, which is excellent because it's only a 20 minute walk from my house. A bunch of people were over, and we played video games for 7 hours on the Wii (including a load of classic Mario for NES that Tommy had downloaded onto the Wii...I love how technology loops). And Monday, Tommy, Lynchy, and I went to Siobhan's house in Malahide, which is a pretty little harbor-side suburb north of Dublin, and watched Independence Day. It was the first time I'd actually watched it all the way through, and all I can say is what a ridiculous movie. We also had some excellent pasta bolognese that Siobhan made us.

Life overall is going quite well. The new roommates are quite nice, if somewhat unexciting (at least around me). I've been cooking a lot of tasty things; I made the BEST MEAL EVER yesterday: mashed celeraic, or celery root, with lentilles de Puy. Trust me: it was amazing. And now, in celebration of Valentine's Day, I'm going to go have some tasty chocolate, and maybe watch a slasher flick or something...or go to Tommy's gig! Maybe you'll find out, if I ever manage to update this thing again.