Patricia McSorley called this segment, "A Gourmet Restaurant!" It is a bunch of snippets from her 1989 out of print book about the food that could be expected for my father and mother's meals in County Tyrone, Mike and Julia. It wasn't different for my grandparents Mickey and Agnes, or for my great-grand-mother Catherine McCusker and great-grandfather Owen McCarroll. Maybe some got to a restaurant, but not very often, if ever.
"Someone cycled to the town on Saturday to get meat and a few 'extras' for Sunday's dinner. Every other day dinner consisted of boiled potatoes, cabbage, eggs and bacon. When the bacon was friend on the big black pan, the fat was kept to fry the mashed cabbage. Mixed with sliced onion it was delicious.
"A knife, fork and mug were set out for each adult and plates were laid on the table. The potatoes were placed in a colander or emptied into a big white flour bag in the centre of the table. Each person held up a piping hot, starchy potato one by one on the end of a fork. Was peeled in the air and the peel fell on the table.
"The potatoes together with cabbage and bacon and washed down with a big mug of buttermilk was a sumptuous meal.
"Frequently the bacon and egg were replaced by a dollop of homemade butter. Left-overs were always kept for the dog, chickens and pigs - in that order.
"Two or three miles was a common distance to walk to and from school and children who had porridge for breakfast and a piece of bread for lunch were ready for a good meal when they reached home.
"I'll tell you there were no free meals like nowadays. I had a couple of bits of bread in my bag and I had them eaten before I was the length of the bloody school.
"Owen Rodgers from Fintona used to come here with a "tay cart", Monaghan's had a grocery van and so had Arthur McCarroll. Mother used to make oaten bread at the hearth and John Doyle would be on McCarroll's cart and he'd get his tea here and a good feed of oatcake.
"Owen Hackett's lorry came as far as Maggie Tighe's. I remember Owen Brennan and Frank Nugent in Newtowncival before Dan McSorley and Owen Hackett took over... Oh, such changes!! Maggie, Johnny and Packie "Toy" lived up there, where Sheridan has the place now. It was a great house for dancing, and the girls got tea but the lads got none. Sure, we took the scones of bread out of Marlowes with a pitchfork...[but it was all in fun].
"A flat over, normally used for baking, was placed in the middle of the kitchen floor and the 'dinner' was portioned off. With a spoon or fork in hand, each child squatted on the floor and enjoyed a tasty meal Potatoes, cabbage, onion, bacon and egg, salt and pepper are all mashed together with a little butter. This meal is now called "Colcannon". The wash up is minimal and the taste still lingers with all of us who sampled it.
"I remember coming home from Mass on the first Sunday of the month and loving the smell of toast. We got loaf bread and toast that day because we were fasting from the previous midnight. It had been toasted on a fork in front of the fire.
"'At ceiling houses,' says Jim McGinley, "tea was never made when I was a young lad, instead a pot of porridge was put in the middle of the floor. The women of the house would distribute bowls of milk to respective callers. If there were a few girls and fellas there, you could tell which fella the girl fancied, for he would receive more milk in his bowl and maybe a spoonful of sugar would be slipped in for luck."
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