We had all of day 5 to spend in Cork, so we slept in and had a late breakfast at the hotel. The porridge was somewhat inferior to the Merrion’s, being a little too smooth — Beth thought perhaps the Merrion stirred theirs with a spurtle, which is why it ends up having delicious small lumps — but they had a tasty fresh rhubarb compote that more than made up for the difference. Then we set out to the English Market, one of Ireland’s most famous markets.
The English Market has been around since 1788, and it’s a foodie paradise. Choosing just a few cheeses from the huge counter was a challenge. We ended up getting some blue cheese, sheep’s cheese with fenugreek and goat cheese with fresh thyme and honey, along with some rolls called baps.
In my preparations for this trip I had become somewhat fixated on a dish called tripe and drisheen, which, honestly, sounds kind of terrible but is the food traditionally most associated with Cork City. Drisheen is a blood sausage “with a gelatinous consistency,” according to Wikipedia. Tripe is, well, tripe. Marry them in a milk sauce and you have tripe and drisheen. A restaurant upstairs at the market sells it but, having just had breakfast, I just wasn’t up for it. So we crossed the river to the high ground of north Cork and our next stop.
The Butter Museum does a thoroughly entertaining job of examining Irish history through a lens of butter, as it were. It reaches all the way back to the days of clan rule, when cattle-stealing was a revered leadership skill. Raids were so routine that it wasn’t unusual for someone to have their own cattle stolen while they were off stealing someone else’s.
Meanwhile, farm life revolved around the routines of milking, separating, and churning. The cream often sat out for a few days until the farm wife had enough to churn, so the butter would have had a fermented flavor and was heavily salted for preservation. There was all kinds of local folklore about fairies and demons who would steal or spoil the butter, so people often kept a donkey shoe under the churn to scare off supernatural beings. There are also some hair-raising stories about using a dead person’s hand to churn the butter, for the same purpose.
Naturally the museum had a pot of bog butter on display.
Feeling fact-crammed again, we decided to take the train to the coast at Cobh and just wander around. At the visitor center next to the station we ate the cheese and baps, all of which were delicious, and then set off on foot.
Cobh is famous as the last stop made by the Titanic before it went down. It’s also the place survivors and many bodies were taken after the Lusitania was torpedoed off the Irish coast, bringing the US into World War I. We walked to the opposite end of town and wound up at the Titanic Memorial Garden, which honors the victims of both disasters. It was nice to sit in the sun for a while, watching ships come and go.
Walking back through the city, we stopped to examine dozens of pub and restaurant menus but failed to find a single place serving tripe and drisheen. It seems even Cork residents enjoy the dish more in theory than in practice. Eventually we got back to the hotel restaurant and ordered some soup — nobody was very hungry after all that cheese and bread. I splurged on a glass of the Midleton Very Rare, a whiskey that is always Very Expensive. It was delectable — perhaps one of the few whiskeys that could vie with 12 Year Red Breast for my heart.