Eating for Ireland by Tom Doorley

Loath as I am to admit to judging a book by its cover, at first glance I was drawn to Irish food writer Tom Doorley’s latest book, Eating for Ireland. Not by the clever, laudatory quotes from the Sunday Independent and Food and Wine magazine, nor by the nostalgic main cover image of a 70s era child’s birthday party, but by a smaller yet infinitely more alluring graphic: a vintage bag of cheese & onion Tayto crisps. Any book with the potential to bring me back to childhood summers spent in Ireland, gorging myself on the delectably pungent potato chips and other exotic delicacies such as lemon barley water, Jacob’s biscuits, and 99s had to, I was sure, be a delicious read.

It was. Doorley, restaurant critic for the Irish Daily Mail and a judge on RTE’s hit showThe Restaurant, is a gifted writer whose enthusiasm and curiosity for his subject is both palpable and infectious. In this delightful collection of essays, he reminisces about his own experiences with everything from Marmite and Oxo cubes, soft-boiled eggs and banana sandwiches, to a tender account of his mother’s love of pepper. These personal anecdotes mingle nicely with Doorley’s larger exploration of the origins and histories of some of Ireland’s most beloved and idiosyncratic foods.

Eating for Ireland reads as a light-hearted culinary history – tracking and gently poking fun at the slow evolution of restaurants from serving the soggy trifecta of peas, corn and carrots; attempting to pinpoint the origins of red lemonade (likely from the beverage company Nash’s in the late 1800s), and much more. The book is a delightful trip down memory lane and a thorough rendering of how Ireland’s palate has changed in the past century. My only word of caution is to have a snack on hand – Doorley’s descriptions are that good.

– Sheila Langan

(250 pages / Liberties Press/Dufour Editions / $22.95)