The Irish StewPosted: November 29, 2011
Earlier this week, The Cart specials popped up on my Twitter feed and I was happy to see, for the first time, Irish stew among the items on offer. It prompted the post below and the explanation of how it has come to mean more to me than the sum of its potatoes, carrots etc.
As a foreigner, before you can marry a Vietnamese national, you have to go through the kind of interview best known for its dramatisation in the movie Green Card.
Basically they want to check it’s not just a marriage of convenience.
Having seen the movie, I filled my head with lots of useless facts about her family and her favourite food, cosmetics, TV shows etc. In reality the interview was actually a lot more friendly than I’d imagined.
After a general chat they suddenly hit me with: “When did you realise that you had fallen in love with your wife to be?”
Had I prepared an answer then I may have come up with something that made me look a little less bad. Then again any other answer would have been a lie.
“When she made me Irish stew,” I said.
I’m not proud of it but there was some sentiment behind it rather than just my-wife-as-personal-chef. Honestly we both cook as much as each other.
You see I’d just spent a lonely year in rural Cameroon. A year which in many ways I had chosen to do after the break up of a pretty disastrous relationship.
In my new apartment in Hanoi I was still marvelling that hot water came out of the tap every single time I turned it on. I’d stand there grinning and shaking my head in wonder as the steam rose.
I had just met my now wife and I had cooked for her first. Some days later she told me that she would return the favour but wouldn’t tell me what she was making. I’m pretty good with Vietnamese food but feared it might be something I’d struggle with. Either way I was working down the other end of the studio flat as these amazing smells wafted by.
I kept asking what it was and she’d tell me it was a surprise.
Finally she relented and said: “It’s Irish stew”.
Still bruised from a previous relationship, still grateful for home comforts after Africa, I nearly burst into tears on the spot. Making me food was one thing, going to the effort of researching how to cook something so foreign moved me beyond words.
Now, just over a year into the marriage, I teasingly sometimes refer to the Irish stew moment as being “back then” when she’d do anything for me (and I for her).
“That was my trap”, she says, with a mock evil glint in her eye.