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Denounced as vulgar on publication for its sexual content and profanity, Ulysses was banned from distribution for decades. The literary world now acknowledges that the characters’ extensive mental musings set the standard for all future interior monologues. Today, Joyce’s masterwork is hailed as the seminal modernist novel and one of the greatest contributions to world literature
Bloom’s peregrinations have familiarized readers everywhere with the streets, pubs and monuments (which Bloom calls ‘street furnishings’) of everyday Dublin. Millions visit the city annually to walk in their flawed hero’s footsteps, and each year on June 16th, known far and wide as Bloomsday, Dublin honors one of its most famous, albeit fictional, sons.
In 2010, UNESCO declared Dublin to be a ‘City of Literature’ as part of its Creative Cities Network, which was launched in 2004. No disrespect intended, but I cannot help but wonder why it took the venerable organization six years to place Dublin, a city where literary capital is always increasing exponentially, on the world’s literature map.
When I told a professorial pal of mine that I was attempting to encapsulate two thousand years of Irish literature in one thousand words, he responded, “In university circles, it is commonly quipped that, with the exception of Shakespeare, there is no such thing – really – as English literature. It’s all Irish.”
Throughout Ulysses, Joyce shows how food is part of one’s daily life, future plans and fantasies. It reflects social class and individual temperament, and offers opportunities for interaction. It symbolizes sex, and its rituals are interwoven with culture, customs and values. During lunch, Bloom muses on the food choices of the “Crème de la crème,” contrasting them to the “hermit with a platter of pulse,” and concludes that food, like dress, defines personality: “Know me come eat with me.” (Chapter Eight: Lestrygonians).
If your own peregrinations will not carry you to a site where Bloomsday is being celebrated, consider replicating Bloom’s lunch. With a Gorgonzola cheese and mustard sandwich and a glass of Burgundy in hand, open a copy of Ulysses to the final chapter, Penelope, which Joyce devotes to the feminine regenerative principle of the universe. In the final pages, Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy, one long uninterrupted sentence describing her first amorous encounter with Bloom, ends with the word “Yes” – Joyce’s conclusive affirmation of life and the power of love.
Liver Slices Fried with Crust Crumbs & Bacon
(The Joyce of Cooking, Alison Armstrong)
“Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He
liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod’s roes. Most of all, he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”
(Ulysses, Chapter Four: Calypso)
4 thin slices of calf liver
1 cup dry breadcrumbs seasoned with back pepper and paprika
4 slices smoked Irish bacon
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Dredge liver in seasoned breadcrumbs and set aside. In a heavy skillet, brown bacon until limp but not crisp, then set aside on a warm plate. Gently cook the onion in the bacon fat until soft and set aside with the bacon. Add butter to the skillet, increase heat slightly and saute liver on both sides. Reduce heat, add beef broth and bay leaf. Cook slowly for 15 minutes. When the liver is tender, set aside with bacon and onions. Raise heat to medium, sprinkle cornstarch into the pan juices and stir until it has the consistency of gravy. Pour “bogswamp brown trickles of gravy” over the liver slices, bacon and onions. Makes two servings.
Davy Byrnes Pub’s Gorgonzola Sandwich
Davy Byrnes Pub has been a Dublin landmark since opening in 1889 and a world literature landmark since Leopold Bloom stopped in for lunch on June 16, 1904. The Gorgonzola Sandwich is still on the menu.
“Mr. Bloom ate his stripes of sandwich, fresh clean bread, with relish of disgust, pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate. ….. After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth.”
(Ulysses, Chapter 8: Lestrygonians)