By Tori Lock
BALLINCOLLIG, Ireland – We grabbed our rain jackets from the room and nervously waited for our bus to arrive in the light drizzles of an Irish Wednesday night. With only two and a half weeks to learn everything there is about Irish food, our schedule was jam packed. But this evening, somehow, we found ourselves with a few free moments.
First, we decided to go to a restaurant we had already gone to. Tried and true. No getting lost, no bad dinner, no mean people – safe.
But at the last minute, we decided to head out of town and go on a little adventure.
We sorted through the bus fare, fumbling with the fat, awkward coins. We hadn’t yet gotten the hang of euros yet, and we really had no idea where we were going. Thankfully, a kind local dressed all in gray helped us out. He laughed with us all along the bus ride and pointed out landmarks as we drove, shaking his snack, Texas BBQ Pringles, in his hand. When our bus stop arrived, none of us moved. The man nudged us. “This is your stop, loves.”
We found ourselves in Ballincollig, west of Cork, where the White Horse sat proudly. It is one of the oldest pubs in Cork County, established in 1901.
Just getting to the place, I felt accomplished.
We waited for a table outside on the stone patio, overlooking the green, rolling hills — our bellies grumbling. They called our party inside.
“American girls! Your table is ready.”
We scooched into our wooden booth and ordered quickly. Our waiter had a Polish accent and a soft chuckle. He explained the menu rhythmically, as if he had done it a million times. Feeling like a local, I got bangers and mash and warm bread pudding, with drinks to accompany.
I left with with a full belly, and more importantly, a new found confidence to take on Ireland. Food can do that.