Thursday, March 12, 2009

Guys Night Out

My son and I went to the Dan McGuinness Irish Pub for a guys night out.

We found a seat ...

And ordered the Shepherd's Pie ...

The plates were huge and loaded with food. It was good, tasty and really hit the spot. A glass or three of cold Harp lager made it perfect.

What is a perfect Shepherd's Pie? Whoever says that it a "casserole" layered with cooked meat, vegetables such as carrots, corn, and peas, topped with mashed potatoes ... is a damned liar and in league with the Devil.

The presently and widely held truth is that the perfect Shepherd's Pie was the kind made by my Grandmother. She would make the mashed potatoes in one pot. In another she would make some brown gravy from pan drippings she'd reserved from the roasting pan from another meal. She'd whip that into shape over a flame with flour and real fresh milk from a brown and white Guernsey named Marie.

She always said the cow was named after a well endowed, 1940s actress named Marie Wilson, but I always certain she named the cow in honor of another Marie ... my *other* grandmother.

One of her favorite expressions was "cooking with gas", and that is what she did right up until the day she went into the Home. She'd turn and chop the hamburger until it was just crumbles. A diced onion melted in with meat. Then she'd mix the gravy in with and some canned peas. Once it got to a bubble, it was done.

Serving was where all that became the Shepherd's Pie. She had this enornmus wooden sppon that she used for every occasion. With a savvy flick of her tiny wrist that spoon could scoop and shape mashed potatoes, beat cake batter, or reach across the kitchen table discipline naughty children. Ouch!

She heft out a dollop of mashed potatoes and aim it at your plate. Whack! The next stroke of the spoon shaped the spuds into a bowl in the middle of your plate. Then you'd get two scoops of the gravy, hamburger and peas mixture. Add one scoop of an unrelated vegetable and that was dinner.

And it was good.

Having "bent an elbow" in the old country, I can say without doubt that Dan McGuinness' "An Irish Pub" wasn't the same experience. The pre-packaged and franchised "Irish Pub Concept" is pretty much everywhere in this country now. Yes, thinking of the differences makes me nostalgic for the real thing, but there are some similarities worth noting. The service was fast, friendly and good. The place was spotlessly clean. But when I heard a shout from the kitchen and the whack of a wooden spoon on a plate ... I was knee deep in memories, and when that big, fully loaded plate landed on the table in front of me ... I was in heaven.

And it was good.


Cinnamon said...

Your description of your grandmother's 'shepherd's pie' has left my mouth watering!

The thing I noticed about Irish pubs is that they are all so individual- a community made up od individuals. Difficult to franchise that.

The cow named Marie- LOL! You have reminded me of my 2 grandmothers who were arch rivals for my affection and always tried to out-do each other in the kitchen!

Cinnamon said...

sorry about spellings- I must learn to proof-read my comments

Mel said...

I'd show this to the Brit for validation--but I KNOW I'd end up with a laugh and a shake of the head and a "You poor colonists......"

He can be soooooooo patronizing. LOL

I will give that HIS shepherd's pie is awesome.....even if it's not served with a wooden spoon (disallowed in this household cept for decorative purposes!).

Guys night out--now THAT'S a good plan. Thinkin' switch the gender and consider that one!

Technonana said...

Every recipe is done differently depending on where you live, and who is doing the cooking.
And that wooden spoon? Well, that's what we use around here.
I only have to ask the question "do I need to get the spoon?"

Amber Star said...

Grandmothers have a way with food, both cooking it and serving it that stays with us forever. My grandmother's dish that has stuck with me FOREVER is a smothered steak she cooked in the oven. In youthful hubris I scorned it as not being as hip as possible. Something I've regreted ever since. My grandmother slipped into dementia not that long after and I never got the recipe. That was a cruel thing I did, but I was 15 and an idiot.

Cinammon's post about her two grandmothers cracked me up. I had two like that, too. In fact they had snide comments about the year the other one was born. It was always like that and they were like daylight and dark, but I loved them both like crazy.

The only time I've ever seen much about shepard's pie was not long ago when Gordon Ramsay pitched a fit over one in some faux Irish pub. Actually the owners were Irish, but the mess they put out as shepard's pie was yucky. He actually gave them his mother's recipe and the customers loved it. When he came back in a year to check on them, they were still in business and doing well. They learned.

NouveauBlogger said...

Ok, now I'm starving. My wife makes a pretty mean Shepherd's Pie. I should convince her to whip up a batch this weekend :)

Leah said...

I've come back to read this twice--and it was like having two helpings! I adore Shepherd's Pie, and make a pretty nice one myself--not unlike your grandma's, but with Worcestershire sauce--

Leni Qinan said...

Boy, it's dinner time here and this post sounds so... yummy!My tummy is growling!

Grannies' food is always great. Their cooking is always a mixture of love, patience and wisdom. And it brings back so many memories of childhood.

I've never had shepherd's pie, but I googled it, found a recipe, had a look at the fridge, and saw that I have everything I need.

So it's decided: tomorrow there will be shepherd's pie in the menu!

sharilyn said...

ok. now i'm just downright hungry!! :) sounds so delish and so well-told, skeeter! i also got a big kick out of Mel's comment with "you poor colonists... " : ) delightful!

CIELO said...

A blessed time together indeed! How fun... I know someone loves you! ;)

Blessings to you and yours my sweet friend!

ps: do you know how to bake? I'm having a party.... come see


kylie said...

hi skeeter,
the shepherds pie sounds great but what i love is the wooden spoon. i cant "cook" without one

zirelda said...

What a wonderful post.

There just isn't anything like a really good memory is there?

Grass said...

Nice description of Shepherd's pie.. I feel that I can make one similar to your grandma's.. hehehe

Talk of food really gets my interest.. tsk tsk.. ;-)