Eating Authors: Peadar Ó. Guilín

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Categories: Plugs
Peadar Ó. Guilín

Welcome back to another installment of asking authors about their favorite meals. This feature was inspired by my protagonist, the Amazing Conroy, who in addition to being a stage hypnotist is also very much a foodie.

Today we break bread with Peadar Ó. Guilín who I had the pleasure of meeting last August as a co-panelist during the WorldCon. Peadar’s first novel, The Inferior, was published in 2007 and has been described as “a stark, dark tale, written with great energy and confidence and some arresting reflections on human nature.” In the coming year, Peadar expects to see it translated into eight languages, including Japanese and Korean. His second novel, The Deserter, will be published in May in the UK.

LMS: So tell me, what’s your best, most memorable meal?

PÓG: My best meal is more of an event than an actual list of ingredients.

I grew up in 1980s Ireland. I knew then that people in other countries ate things besides potatoes and oh, how I pitied them. I had seen pasta with my own two eyes; I had felt clammy grains of rice slither slowly into my gut, determined to see daylight again as soon as possible. No, what all those poor foreigners needed was a floury Donegal spud with a fist of butter dribbling over the sides.

Everything changed when I spent a few years in Italy. Pasta isn’t supposed to be slimy. Who knew? Tomatoes are meant to taste sweet after months in the sun. Garlic is not the Devil’s dandruff. My tongue, thought by experts back home to be an evolutionary response to the invention of the postal stamp, came suddenly alive. Oh my!

The Inferior
The Deserter

Then I came home to attend college in Dublin. My social life improved a lot in this period — unusual for a Science Fiction writer — but my taste-buds curled into a ball and began to die. It’s not that we didn’t have Italian restaurants here. Then, as now, you could find a few of them on every street of the capital. But in the early 90s, every last one of them served Irish versions of traditional Italian dishes: spaghetti bolognese with rice* and enough beef to stop the heart of a lion; carbonara made with two gallons of cream; pizzas topped with chicken.

The horrors didn’t end there, but in a desire to spare your maidenly blushes, I will cut to the chase.

One fine day, when meeting an Italian friend for lunch, we saw that a new restaurant had opened**. We shared a sad smile at the sight of it. But we decided to give it a chance anyway, entering with the Buzzard of Disappointment on one shoulder, and the told-you-so Parrot of Culinary Regret on the other.

But something strange happened that day. I chanced to look up and nearly fell off my chair. The blackboard where staff listed the dish of the day was not written in English, or even Italian, but in a dialect from central Italy. My friend and I instantly recognized the implied message: “Here, we refuse to adapt to local customs. We cook Italian food, with Italian ingredients, in the Italian tradition and if you don’t like it you can go-“

“Oh we do! We do like it!” Yes, we did. I can’t remember a single thing I ate that day, but it must have been amazing because it started a new tradition among my friends, bringing us back to the same place every Saturday for the last eight years.***

I still treasure a good spud, of course, don’t get me wrong. Its uncomplaining presence graces three meals out of four in our household. But if I’m going to eat foreign food, I make damn sure that it’s foreign!


* No, this is not a joke.

** La Corte in the Powerscourt Town Centre. Closed now, alas.

*** Well, not quite. The restaurant has since closed down, but we have moved our traditional lunch to a place run by the same people.

Eat or be Eaten.

Thanks, Peadar. And while you’ve set my mind to thoughts of fine Italian cooking, my taste buds are nonetheless hankering for a floury Donegal spud. Hmm…

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


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