Bidding Farewell – A Not-So-Simple Irish Ritual

Saying goodbye and departing a friend’s home may be a simple act in America, but in Ireland there is an unwritten code of honor that guides farewell rituals.

There are superstitions that must be adhered to, or God forbid you may draw some form of ill fate upon your unsuspecting self.

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I always remember my mother’s superstitions about a first visit to a new friend’s home.

She advised me to always leave by the door through which I first entered.

I have arrived at parties in the U.S. where all the guests are streaming through an open garage door. Try as I might to forget obsolete traditions of my youth, my unwilling feet always lead me to the front door of each and every home I visit.

I find it very difficult to arrive non-chalantly through a back door with an enthusiastic announcement of my arrival.  For me, the ding dong of a door bell wards off those bad luck spirits ruling over ancient Irish greeting rituals.

And then of course there is the issue of which door I may leave through without bringing ill luck my way.

Red Gate - Cottage Rear Door

My mother’s words return and you know you should never ignore your mother.

 

Leave by the door through which you entered on your first visit to a home.

 

If I go in through an open garage when I arrive in daylight, it can be a little awkward to ask to exit through the garage, if it’s all closed up at the end of a night’s festivities.

Oh the dilemmas of carrying old cultural ways all the way to a new land.

 

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And then there is the whole drama of bidding farewell to guests in my own home.

Unsuspecting American guests might announce they are about to leave, and try to slip out the back door or through the yard unnoticed.

 

Not in my Irish American home!

 

Guests must be escorted to the front door for a proper goodbye and thank you. Even my kids know they should join the farewell party as we move out to the porch.

Into the bargain we stand there and wave goodbye as your car departs down the street. Our front door does not close until you have officially departed.  I know my neighbors think I’m crazy, but what can I say. I’m Irish.

In Ireland farewells can go on and on. Deep conversations are launched at the door. A quick exit is very difficult, so plan your departure with plenty of time to spare.

Now recently I learned of an American term called ‘an Irish goodbye’.  This phenomenon is also called ghosting, and refers to leaving a social gathering without saying your farewells.

I never heard of this expression in Ireland. Perhaps it evolved in the U.S., as those in the know slipped out the back door, to avoid the infamously prolonged real Irish goodbye.

Shakespeare may have summed it all up when he said “parting is such sweet sorrow,” but in Ireland parting is full of superstition, and endless chat.

If you know of any other Irish superstitions regarding the rituals of coming and going, please feel free to tell us in the comment section below.

And so, without any more fuss, I bid you all farewell this cold and wintery January evening.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Drop Scones

Drop scones are small, thick pancakes, so named because they are made by dropping spoonfuls of batter on to a hot griddle or frying pan.

I loved drop scones when I was a little girl. Lemon and sugar pancakes, which are more like crêpes, featured on our Pancake Tuesday menu, but on other days we enjoyed these hot delicious treats, spread with golden syrup and melting butter.

Dripping golden syrup on drop scones

Drop scones are also called Scottish pancakes, and in the past were sometimes called pocket pancakes.  They were the perfect size for popping into a pocket to stave off the nibbles and munchies.

They actually taste great even when eaten cold, but should only be popped in the pocket if they haven’t been drizzled with syrup.

Originally invented in Scotland these little pancakes have been adopted and adapted by cooks throughout the British Isles.

Apparently Queen Elizabeth made drop scones for President Dwight Eisenhower when he visited Balmoral Castle in 1959.  Somehow,  I don’t think the Queen rustled up the batter herself and personally dropped and flipped the President’s scones. But you never know.

A tower of Scottish pancakes or drop scones

In the United States the term drop scones conjures up visions of drop biscuits.  But trust me there’s no dough kneading involved here. Instead dollops of thick pancake batter are dropped onto a pan.

They are very similar to American pancakes, but drop scones are thicker, and a little smaller.

So why don’t we call them pancakes. Scones take their name from the Stone of Destiny, also called Scone, the coronation site for Scottish Kings in days gone by. So if the Scottish people wish to call these little pancakes “scones”, then I say they have every right to do so. Hey, they invented scones in the first place! :)

Ingredients for drop scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of golden syrup (or 2 tablespoons of white sugar if golden syrup unavailable)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ounces of butter (for frying pancakes)
  • golden syrup, honey or jam to serve

Whisking flour, salt and baking powder together

Toss the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk them together to eliminate any lumps in the flour.

Adding golden syrup to eggs and milk for drop scones

Next prepare the wet ingredients by whisking the eggs, milk and golden syrup together in a pitcher.

Golden syrup is very thick and will fall to the bottom of the pitcher. It takes quite a bit of whisking to blend it completely through the milk and egg mixture.

If you cannot find golden syrup, fine white sugar will work instead. I prefer the slightly caramel flavor golden syrup adds to these pancakes, so if you can put your hands on a tin, then I highly recommend using it.

In Louisville, I can buy golden syrup at my local Meijers grocery store.

Mixing wet and dry ingredinets for Scotch pancakes

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk everything together.

This is a great recipe for children. My kiddos love whisking the batter, and searching for lumps.

Whisking batter for drop scones

Whisk the batter well until it is smooth and completely blended.

Next let the batter stand for 15 minutes before cooking.

This is an important step. I believe this little bit of standing time allows the gluten in the flour to start breaking down.

Melting butter in griddle pan for cooking drop scones

Next heat a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat.

I love how drop scones cook evenly in my cast iron pan.  It takes quite a while for it to heat up fully, but the final product is worth the wait.

Melt a knob of butter in the pan before adding the first batch of pancakes.

Dropping the batter onto the pan for drop scones

Drop about 2 tablespoons of batter in circles on the pan.

I use my 1/4 cup measuring spoon, and fill it a little over half way.

Three drop scones cooking on the griddle

These pancakes are about 3 inches in diameter.

They are smaller than regular American pancakes and bigger than silver dollar pancakes.

Bubbles on surface of a drop scone when ready to turn

Cook for two to three minutes until the upper surface starts to bubble.

Three drop scones cooking on a pan

Flip the pancakes over and cook for an additional two minutes on the second side, until golden.

Re-butter the pan and continue to cook the drop scones in batches until the batter is gone.

I made 22 pancakes in total with this volume of batter.

Place the cooked pancakes on a plate and cover them with a clean dish towel to keep them warm and moist while finishing the cooking.

Honey on pancakes

Drop scones are delicious served with golden syrup. 

A knob of soft butter melting on a drop scone is equally mouth wateringly delectable.

Syrup on drop scones

Honey adds an extra layer of ooy-gooey sweetness.

Raspberry jam on a drop scone

And a spoonful of jam spread on top is simply scrumptious.

Let’s face it! As for toppings, there’s no limit.

Whatever you think will work to tantalize your taste buds, then drop scones are the perfect base for building a special treat.

Smoked salmon with cream cheese gives them a savory twist, and strawberries and cream are simply perfection.

Wishing you all days of happy scone dropping.

Here’s the printable recipe.

Drop Scones

Serves 6 to 8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Meal type Breakfast
Region British

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup (use white sugar if golden syrup is unavailable)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 2oz butter (for frying pancakes)
  • jam or syrup or honey (to serve)

Directions

Step 1 Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl.
Step 2 Whisk the eggs, milk and golden syrup together in a pitcher until fully blended.
Step 3 Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk together until smooth.
Step 4 Leave the batter to stand for 15 minutes.
Step 5 Melt a little butter on a frying pan or griddle. Drop two tablespoons of batter in circles on the pan.
Step 6 Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the upper surface starts to bubble. Flip the pancakes over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more until golden.
Step 7 Re-butter the pan and continue to cook the drop scones in batches until the batter is gone.
Step 8 Serve hot with melting butter, jam, maple syrup or golden syrup.
Drop scones are also delicious when served cold.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

What Is Irish Turf?

When most Americans hear the word “turf”, an image of green grass immediately comes to mind, like the lush green turf of a golf course.  For Irish people the word conjures up dreams of lapping flames, and the distinctive smells of a turf fire.

And so today I thought I might introduce my American readers to Irish turf.

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© Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

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Known as peat in other parts of the world, the Irish prefer the term turf, unless referring to hard, compressed fuel blocks known as peat briquettes.

But whatever you call these brown earthen blocks, I think most Irish people appreciate the warmth and comfort of a turf fire.

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 Turf is dried peat and was a primary fuel source for Irish people for thousands of years.

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© Copyright Derek Mayes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

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Upon hearing the word ‘turf’ my husband immediately recalls days of back breaking summer toil, cutting, stacking, drying and bagging winter’s fuel supply. 

When he reached his teenage years, his poor father had to peel him off the bed to come help him in their Donegal bog.  Somehow the lure of an ice cream cone at the end of the day had lost its appeal for a cool teenager.

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© Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

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In the past, Irish people used turf to heat their homes and cook their food.  Turf was harvested from a bog.  Cutting turf by hand is a laborious task.

A two-sided spade called a sleán is used to slice blocks of peat from the bog.

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© Copyright Jeremy Durrance and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

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So much work was involved entire families, in years gone by, took part in the summer turf cutting expeditions to the bog.  Everyone’s effort was necessary to save enough fuel to sustain the family throughout the cold winter season.

Preparing turf requires drying it out so that it will ignite when lighted. 

Sods of newly cut turf are laid out in the sun and turned to allow them to dry.

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© Copyright Pamela Norrington and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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The turf blocks or sods are then stacked into small ‘stooks’ as shown in the photo above.

These little towers of peat allow the wind to blow through the sods and help with the drying process.

Standing the sods of turf upright and leaning them against each other is no easy task. This process is called ‘footing’ the turf.

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© Copyright Liz McCabe and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Stacking turf is back breaking work.

Very few people cut turf these days, but in some western counties turf stacks can still be seen in the summer months, balancing precariously against each other to dry out in the wind and the sun.

The sods of turf in the picture above are almost ready for the fire.  However, they probably wouldn’t see a match until the cold days of winter.

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Connemara Turf Pile – © Copyright Chris N Illingworth and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Once the turf is deemed dry enough it is gathered together into a great mound or rick for storing.

In the summer months of 1846, at the time of the Great Irish Famine (1845 – 1850) many Irish people were too hungry and weak to work in the bog. 

Cutting turf and saving it was exhausting work. A day at the bog was a daunting prospect on an empty stomach.

As a result the poorest Irish folk had an inadequate fuel supply stored for the winter months of 1846-1847. And to make matters even worse, that winter was cruel, with bitterly cold temperatures. 

I have read that people took to drying cow dung to burn in their fires for heating, since they had no turf saved.

Such sad, sad times.

  © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

© Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

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Today turf cutting is primarily completed by machinery in the vast bogs of Ireland’s inland counties. But you’ll still see turf stacks in unusual places along the coast.

In the photo above a rick of turf has been gathered on top of the high cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal.

Turf Fire in an old Irish hearth

Turf cut from peat bogs may be the traditional fuel in the west of Ireland, but unfortunately it is a smoky fuel. It has been  banned in smokeless urban zones.

In my granny’s cottage kitchen in rural Ireland turf was the fuel of choice. I still remember the bright, lapping flames of the turf fire, and the sweet aromatic scent that permeated her kitchen.

Cozy Fireside - Irish Thatched Cottage

Turf brings back lovely childhood memories.

Let us know in the comment section below if you have ever had the pleasure of warming your toes in front of a glowing turf fire, or perhaps you endured days on end of back breaking labor to save the precious turf when you were a child. I’m looking forward to reading all your stories.

Many Irish pubs in the west of Ireland still burn turf in open fires, helping tourists and locals experience a little bit of the olden ways of Ireland.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Irish Wisdom And Sayings About Horses

Horses were highly prized in ancient Irish culture. Deference for our equine companions continues to this very day.

Both Ireland and Kentucky, my two homes on either side of the Atlantic, are renowned for breeding magnificent racehorses.  So I thought it was high time I explored the connection between the Irish and horses.

Brown Irish Horse

This collection of old Irish words of wisdom, in praise of our equine friends, underlines the importance of these magnificent animals to the Irish throughout the centuries.

 

“A tattered foal can grow into a splendid horse.”

 

In passages of the Brehon Laws it is revealed that during the first milennium the Irish often imported horses from Wales and France. No saddle was used when riding.

Brown horse grazing in autumn

Horses made an enormous contribution to the Irish economy in the 19th century.

“It is a good horse that draws its own cart.”

 

They plowed fields, thereby helping feed the population. They pulled carts, transporting people from place to place.

An Irish Donkey

“Ní dhéanfach an saol capall rás d’asal.”

 

Pronunciation in English phonetics

= Nee yay-nock on sale cop-ull raw-se dah-sal.

“All the world would not make a racehorse from a donkey.”

 

Black Irish Pony

“A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”

 

Churchill Downs

Ancient Irish horsemen rode without stirrups. A horse was mounted by springing from the ground on to the back of the horse. This mounting method was used up until the seventeenth century in Ireland.

 

“Put a beggar on horseback, and he’ll go at a gallop.”

 

Horse Statue at Churchill Downs

Every young man of the upper classes in olden days was required to learn horse-riding.

 

“The raggy colt often made a powerful horse.”

 

Today we require our children to learn how to read, but in the days of Brehon Law the skill of horse-riding was legally  required.

Connemara pony in church yard at Bunratty Folk Park

“Mair a chapaill agus gheobhaidh tú féar.”

Pronunciation using English phonetics:

Mar, a cop-ull ah-gus gheow-hig thoo fay-ur

“Live, horse, and you will get grass.”

 

The meaning of this saying may not be immediately apparent to many readers.  Believe it or not, these words are meant to be encouraging.

It tells us that we must first survive and live, and then we will receive our reward.

Irish Connemara Pony

After 1695 the Penal Laws were enforced against Catholics. The Penal Laws were gradually repealed over the course of the 18th century.  Of note is the law regarding horse ownership.

No Catholic was allowed to keep a horse with a value worth more than 5 Pounds. If a Protestant saw a Catholic with a horse of greater value, then he could purchase the horse for 5 Pounds.

This horrendous discrimination resulted in Irish people placing great value upon horse ownership, as is clearly evident in the next old saying.

 

“Sell the cow, buy the sheep, but never be without the horse.”

 

Irish Horse

“Youth sheds many a skin.

The steed does not retain its speed forever.”

 

Painting of punters in the stands

“The best jockeys are in the stands.”

 

Pony Riding at Kentucky Horse Farm

“Everyone lays a burden on the willing horse.”

 

Race horses training at Churchill Downs

“Bíonn grásta Dé idir an dialait agus an talamh.”

Pronunciation using English phonetics:

Been graw-sta Day id-ur on Dee-a-lit ah-gus on thal-uv

“The grace of God is found between the saddle and the ground.”

 

Over the course of my first twenty-two years of life, I heard many of these sayings uttered by my West Cork granny. They were part and parcel of her everyday speech. Whenever I read them now, I smile, remembering how these wonderful words of wisdom just tripped off the tip of her tongue.

I hope you enjoyed this little exploration of the Irish love of horses.

You might also enjoy my lessons in life from wise old Irish hens, and over the coming months I hope to explore more Irish sayings about animals big and small.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my ramblings.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Ireland’s Arched Bridges

Arched stone bridges remind me of Ireland. Dotted around the countryside, they span Ireland’s many streams and rivers.

I love these old bridges. They seem to tell stories of days long gone, and the many generations who passed over their arches in centuries past.

Bennett's Bridge

Bennett’s Bridge, County Kilkenny – © Copyright Kevin Higgins and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Enduring testaments to the skills of Irish and English engineers from bygone days, these bridges continue to carry their heavy loads, largely ignored by travelers and locals alike.

Shank Bridge, Kells

Shank Bridge, Near Kells and Connor, County Antrim – © Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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These ancient arches have spanned the centuries, with most of Ireland’s stone bridges dating back over 150 years.

Some have stood the test of time through many hundreds of years.

Arched Bridge near Macreddin Village, County Wicklow

Arched Bridge near Macreddin Village, County Wicklow

I was surprised to learn over 18,000 masonry bridges support roads in Ireland to this very day.

That’s a long history of bridge building, and these stony masterpieces have demonstrated amazing durability.

Bridge over the Funcheon River, near Marshallstown, County Cork

Bridge over the Funcheon River, near Marshallstown, County Cork

Initially designed to carry horses, carts and carriages, these bridges display formidable inherent strength by carrying heavy traffic loads each and every day.

Droichead na Gabhair, Kildorrery, County Cork

Droichead na Gabhair, Kildorrery, County Cork

Don’t worry. I’m not going to launch into arch theories with intricate diagrams of thrust lines, compression points, or inversion and loading configurations.

My brain aches just typing these mathematical terms.

Abbeytown Bridge, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

“Abbeytown Bridge” by Chris55 at en.wikipedia

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In this post I simply wish to draw attention to these beautiful architectural gems.

Driving around Ireland you might be crossing ancient arches without even knowing it.

Abbeytown Bridge in Boyle, Co. Roscommon dates back to the late 12th century.

This 5-arch bridge could well be the oldest surviving stone bridge in Ireland, with over 800 years of labor under its belt, or above its incredible arches, however you like to look at it.

This ancient bridge has been widened but traffic continues to flow across its span on a daily basis. Simply amazing.

Old Arched Bridge, County Donegal, Ireland

Old Arched Bridge, County Donegal, Ireland

The stone walls bordering this small road are a clue to a hidden gem beneath.

Ramelton, County Donegal, Arched Bridge by Salmon Weir

Ramelton, Co. Donegal

In Ireland, the landscape, the buildings, and even the bridges connect us to the past.

To tell you the truth I’m a bit of a pain as a car passenger. Whenever I see a bridge with rustic looking stone walls, I immediately sense a little bit of history around me.  I never hesitate to interrupt our journey.

Arched bridge near Ramelton, County Donegal

Salmon Weir, County Donegal

“Whoa,” I call out at the sight of a river with old stone walls edging the road.

“What is it now,” asks my husband, pulling over to the side.

“Let’s check out that bridge.”

Before you know it I’ve climbed over the bridge wall and am down in a field with camera in hand.

Multi-arched bridge in County Donegal

Castle Bridge, Buncrana, County Donegal

These stone arches are part of Ireland’s infrastructural heritage, having served us well over the centuries.

I hope the powers that be will choose to conserve these structures for the future.

Bridge in Ramelton, Donegal

Ramelton, Co. Donegal at Christmas

As custodians of history, I hope today’s generations will honor the symbolic importance of these bridges. They are part of our cultural inheritance.

And so, as you travel around Ireland, keep an eye out for her beautiful bridges.  You never know when you may cross one of these architectural masterpieces.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom