I went to The Pieman Cafe after I had taken a 30 minute nap.
Perhaps it had been the longest day that I have had this semester. I woke up at 3:30 AM in order to make my flight at London Heathrow at 7:00 AM. I drank my first cup of coffee immediately before the flight so I would have a clear head after I took my plane nap. I drank my second cup of coffee after I arrived and had an Irish breakfast at Donaghue’s, which included an interesting black pudding composed of baked blood and herbs.
The rest of the day, which started at 9 AM when I had arrived in the center of Dublin, started with an accidental encounter with the Molly Malone statue. The color of the statue was a brown, except for her titties, which were a bright gold from countless tourists getting steamy with an inanimate hunk of metal. I suppose her titties were pronounced, which I suppose got some people off. But, hey, it’s 2019, and who am I to judge fetishes?
Molly Malone was followed by reading Dubliners by James Joyce at Trinity College, photographing birds at St. Stephen’s Green, going to afternoon services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and feeling alone at Dublin Castle. By the time I had finished the attractions I had wanted to go south of the River Leffey, it was raining. It is always raining, but then, it was literally raining. I rushed back and checked in at my hostel, which didn’t take long because Dublin’s central district is quite small in size.
“All Star” by Smash Mouth was playing overhead. There were a couple of album covers decorating a bullitin board. The entire shop smelled subtly of butter, which made sense considering that the majority of the finished pies were on display. There was one group of individuals who were there when I had arrived. From their accents, I am almost sure that they were American, which probably puts the legitimacy of the qualities of the Pieman Cafe on the line, considering there doesn’t seem any locals there. But, nevertheless, I wanted to eat pies, so I stayed.
I want to preface my tasting of the pies at the Pieman Cafe by saying that the pies that I had had a mere two days prior at Piebury Corner in King’s Cross, London was one of the most disappointing experiences I have ever had. I am no pie connoisseur, of course, but I would say if the pie requires a effortful stabbing to break, it is probably too dry. The filling was pasty, which is not a pie filling. There is a reason pie filling isn’t called pie paste. If it were a pie paste, no one would want to eat pies anymore. But, Piebury Corner seemed to be popping when I went, so who am I to say that I don’t like their pies? Maybe’s I’m the weird one here.
I asked girl at the counter of the Cafewhat the most popular pie in the shop is. She said, “Beef and Guinness.” So, I ordered the beef and Guinness pie. She was also Asian and had a mild accent. I was tempted to ask her where she was from, but I didn’t because I remember how annoying it is when people ask me where I’m from out of the blue. She seemed to be in her mid twenties, and it did not seem like there was anyone else who was helping run the shop. Either way, I was curious, but I didn’t ask.
The pies arrived. My beautiful beef and Guinness pie with some mash potatoes on the side. I took one bite, and it was… okay? I guess. The texture was satisfactory, I guess, but the filling was a underflavored and unfulfilling. I was even a bit disappointed with my own disappointment. Maybe my standards for pies are unrealistic. Despite considering pies to be a very Anglo-Saxon dish, I have yet to taste a pie that blew my mind away in the London or Dublin. Perhaps, the problem isn’t with the pie; it is with me.
A day later, I went to another pub called Brian Boru. It was recommended to me by the server of another pub after I asked where I could find an Irish stew. But, unfortunately, when I arrived at Brian Boru, I discovered that they did not serve Irish stews either, which brings an interesting question about locality:
The Irish stew is supposedly a traditional Irish food. But, what is the point of calling it a national dish if so few people in Ireland actually eat it?
Of course, I wouldn’t know if the residents of Dublin actually ate Irish stew because I didn’t take a randomized census. But, from the sheer difficulty I found trying to find a restaurant that served Irish stews, I find it hard to believe that the Irish stew is a part of the regular diet of an average Irish person. I am in pursuit of locality because I have always found food such a beautiful medium to communicate culture, but what is the point of pursuing what I believe to be local when it seems that the locality I envision is actually inauthentic?
It’s fine. I saw on a pie on the menu, so I ordered the pie. Perhaps this moment is how I can redeem the pie that I had had the previous day. Why do I even want pies? Is it because I believe pies to be a very authentically Anglo-Saxon dish? I do like pies, regardless of its origins. I love pies. There are very few things in life that make me happy, but pies make me happy. I want to eat more pies. In this case, they had one pie: a beef and Guinness pie, which was, coincidentally, the exact same pie that I had ordered the previous day.
I waited for about 40 minutes before my pie had arrived. I knew that it would be a good pie precisely because I had to wait 40 minutes for it to arrive. If it had been served, instantaneously, like the £3 pie that I shared with my friend at a cheap fish and chips joint, then I knew it would be a bad pie. It was, proverbially, taking a piss on me. This intuition holds from at very statistically significant rate. Never have I ever had a pie take 40 minutes to make and taste bad, and never had I ever had a pie take 1 minute to make and taste good. It would almost seem as if there existed a correlation between the amount of time put into a pie and the quality of the pie itself.
Low sample size, high variance, but this is my equivalent of statistical truth.
It was not so much a pie as much as a stew with some pie crust on it. The edges of the pie crust were stiff, but I expected as much. I stabbed the pie crust with my fork and watched in satisfaction as the beef and vegetables underneath saturate the pie crust with a medium-thick juice. It was undersalted, in my opinion, but I remedied the dearth in salt by adding salt from the shaker. The beef had been incredibly tender, as it seems that it had been sitting in the pie mix for quite some tie. Sometimes, I would add the mash potatoes on the side into the filling of the pie. That was one of the few good choices that I have made in my life.
The vegetables were chunky and not water-y, thankfully. I like my vegetables chunky. Repeating the cycle of mixing the pie crust and mash potatoes, I finished the pie and licked all the mash potatoes and pie crush from the plate. It was quite satisfying, although it was the first meal I have had after hiking from Dublin City Centre to Glasnevin Cemetary, so maybe I was just really hungry. Or maybe, seeing the grave of Charles Stewart Parnell had instilled in me some form of Irish nationalism that had consecrated into a desire for pies. Who knows?
Whatever. I still miss Philadelphia Chinese food.