Pól ÓMuirí

An Ir­ish­man’s Diary

The Irish Times - - Comment & Letters -

When do you think we Ir­ish be­came so­phis­ti­cated? Was it cof­fee that did it? Do you re­mem­ber drink­ing in­stant cof­fee for the first time and feel­ing cos­mopoli­tan? We all started out on a rot-gut pop­u­lar blend, feel­ing very ad­ven­tur­ous and then won­der­ing what the hell is this stuff? It tastes like tar.

Of course, you per­se­vered be­cause cof­fee has ca­chet that a cup of tae doesn’t. You spend a bit more on a bet­ter brand. You are be­gin­ning to feel very so­phis­ti­cated. You turn your nose up at the older brand – “I wouldn’t be seen dead drink­ing that. This is much bet­ter stuff.”

You are an ex­pert in cof­fee now. Then they start sell­ing it in shops – real cof­fee. Your slightly more ex­pen­sive cof­fee is not just as good.

Here comes the next chal­lenge – you have got to learn some Cof­fee Ital­ian. You hate lan­guages. You curse the waste of time that was study­ing Ir­ish. Ir­ish is not so­phis­ti­cated. They have only one word for cof­fee in Ir­ish. Ir­ish speak­ers drink tae, big cups of tae. You do not drink tae. You drink cof­fee. You are so­phis­ti­cated, mod­ern, Euro­pean, out­ward look­ing. You take a chance on the word that you think you can pro­nounce: “I’ll have a large cup-o-chino.”

You do not re­alise it but you have make a big hames-o-chino of the pro­nun­ci­a­tion. You do not get the right em­pha­sis on the mid­dle syl­la­ble. It is all right. The barista serv­ing you the cup-o-chino is from Drogheda and no more knows the cor­rect pro­nun­ci­a­tion than you. You learn Cof­fee Ital­ian. You drink cof­fee. You are so­phis­ti­cated, mod­ern, Euro­pean, out­ward look­ing. You start hav­ing latte and mocha and es­presso – but you keep pro­nounc­ing it as “ex­presso” like “ex­press” be­cause that is the bus you get home! No one no­tices your bad Cof­fee Ital­ian.

How­ever, now comes another hur­dle. You have to learn Break­fast French to go with your Cof­fee Ital­ian. You drink cof­fee. You are so­phis­ti­cated, mod­ern, Euro­pean, out­ward look­ing and you must there­fore eat crois­sants. You ask for crux­u­nts and cro­cunts and kus­sants. (Damn all those years you spent learn­ing Ir­ish. What a waste. There is no Ir­ish for crois­sant!)

No mat­ter. You drink cof­fee. You are so­phis­ti­cated, mod­ern, Euro­pean, out­ward look­ing. You keep get­ting crux­u­nts, cro­cunts and kus­sants with your ex­presso from that lit­tle barista-run shop at the corner. You learn flu­ent Break­fast French and even ask for pain au raisin now and again.

Still, you have to point at the pain au raisin be­cause the barista is from Belfast and thinks you have a speech im­ped­i­ment.

They in­tro­duce bagels. You are a bit wary about bagels. Bagels do not sound French and, there­fore, may not be so­phis­ti­cated enough for you. But wait? They eat bagels in New York? New York is very glam­orous and hip and trendy. You too will eat bagels.

You learn Break­fast Amer­i­can: “I’ll have a bagel and cream cheese.” (You pro­nounce “cheese” as “cheezzzzze” be­cause that is how they do it on the tele­vi­sion.) Bagels are cool, man. Yeah, dude, they are. High five, bro! You drink cof­fee. You are so­phis­ti­cated, mod­ern, Euro­pean, out­ward-look­ing.

Then you no­tice one day that they are serv­ing some­thing called the Break­fast Bagel in that nice barista-run shop at the corner. You are a bit sus­pi­cious of this. A break­fast bagel? What the hell is that, man? It is a bagel – bagels are cool – filled with ba­con, sausage and egg.

You are Ir­ish; you like ba­con, sausage and egg. How­ever, you also drink cof­fee and you are so­phis­ti­cated, mod­ern, Euro­pean, out­ward look­ing.

Can you re­ally have the break­fast bagel filled with lovely ba­con, sausage and egg and still be on trend? No one is look­ing. You buy the break­fast bagel with your semi-skimmed, lightly frothed, latte-mocha and eat it at your desk.

In truth, you say to your­self, a break­fast bagel is fu­sion cui­sine; it is the bring­ing to­gether of two tra­di­tions and mak­ing a new, fab­u­lously tasty, one.

You are Ir­ish. You like ba­con, egg and sausage. You forgo the crux­onts and the pain

au raisin for a while. You start eat­ing the break­fast bagel un­til, one morn­ing, there is a queue out the door of that lit­tle barista-run place you fre­quent. You are forced into the lo­cal shop where you never go. (They do not have nice cof­fee.)

They do, how­ever, have break­fast rolls, huge mon­strously lovely white rolls filled with half a pig and enough eggs to keep you go­ing till Easter.

You get it with tea – they do not have nice cof­fee – go back to your desk, eat like you were at a feast with Fionn Mac Cumhaill him­self and wake up in a cave, say­ing: “Ah f**k it! I am not so­phis­ti­cated af­ter all. I am Ir­ish.”

‘‘

Can you re­ally have the break­fast bagel filled with lovely ba­con, sausage and egg and still be on trend? No one is look­ing

You are be­gin­ning to feel very so­phis­ti­cated. You turn your nose up at the older brand. “I wouldn’t be seen dead drink­ing that. This is much bet­ter stuff.”

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