I walked into an Asian take-out about 3 hours from Dublin.
I realize that’s not infinitely helpful geographically, but as an American, I naturally measure every location in any foreign country by its approximate distance from the most touristed city in that country. Had I said I walked into an Asian take-out “on the Atlantic coast of Ireland,” most Americans would have probably responded: “Ireland has an Atlantic coast?” But Dublin is something we know; Dublin is something we understand.
Dublin, to a lot of America, represents the land of Lucky Charms and Guinness, rainbows and sheep, and red-haired people named O’Flannihanidougherty. If you’re American and you’re still lost, think of where the Leprechauns live. Got it now? If you’re Irish and you want to kill me right now, just hold onto your green top hat a moment and quickly think about America. If any combination of McDonald’s, shotguns, or obese people comes to mind, you don’t have a leg to stand on. (Except for the fact that we do have all those things…actually a lot of all those things…)
So there I was, walking into an Asian take-out near Sligo, a little town on Ireland’s beautiful Atlantic coast. I had just put in my order when a very exciting prospect was presented to me: I got a choice of sides! How thrilling – I hadn’t expected this! I also hadn’t expected the next question:
“Fried rice or chips?”
Chips? They can’t possibly be offering me potato chips, can they? Obviously not. Potato chips and Chinese? Who’s ever heard of such a thing? Oh, right – ‘chips’ are something different here. It’s not potato chips, it’s…French fries?
That’s right – they were offering me French fries. As you can imagine, I raised an eyebrow – I raised more than an eyebrow. I raised two of them in the kind of surprise that is reserved only for well-done-up ladies who hand-paint their eyebrows on their foreheads.
Don’t get me wrong – I love French fries. I’m American – French fries make up one of our five basic food groups. We eat them with everything: French fries and cheese, French fries and bacon, French fries and milkshakes. I actually think we’re fairly imaginative in our French fry pairings, but even we haven’t ventured into soy sauce yet. Call me crazy, but the combo sounded somewhat unappetizing. Honestly, the idea of French fries hasn’t grossed me out that much since my Canadian friends told me about poutine – a delectable treat involving fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Can someone please tell me what happened to ketchup??
But ask the local Irish about their local Irish delicacy, and they’ll rave about it like Taylor Swift on this week’s love interest. No one on the Emerald Isle could believe that I was so skeptical of their perfect food pairing. Their argument: Try it and you’ll like it.
Try it? It sounds disgusting! I think I’ll pass. French fries and Chinese food sounds like Chipotle with a side of Alfredo sauce or curry with a bowl of egg salad. What’s next? We all turn French and start eating our fries with mayonnaise? Oh wait….I kindof like that combination now. But French fries with vegetable lo mein? Now that combination is just plain weird! I don’t even want to try it!
Of course, I’ve learned that Irish people are not to be trusted on food pairings anyway – they don’t even eat peanut butter and jelly, or chicken and waffles, or chocolate bacon! I suggested ranch on pizza, barbecue sauce on potato chips, and SpaghettiOs with grilled cheese. I offered them Old Bay on tuna fish, ketchup and corn, and numerous deep-fried candy bars. I kept saying: “Try it, and you’ll like it,” but they were having none of it. Irish people are so stubborn.