Sunday, February 19, 2012

Your New Irish Stew

eat. As you may know from past posts, I am in a Finnegans Wake reading group which meets twice a month at a local Irish pub to drink beer and ponder the wonder of James Joyce’s brain. (One of our members has a blog about the group.)

It’s been almost three years, and we are now up to page 216—about a third of the way through. (You may think, ah! That means they’ll be done in six more years. But no, as the work is circular—the first sentence of the book is the second half of the last sentence—we’ve decided to just keep going when we finish, and start all over again.)

Some of my readers no doubt are aware that Finnegans Wake is a dense, complicated work of fiction, which spans the history of everything. But did you know that it also contains a recipe? When we came across this passage last month, we decided that for our next book group dinner party we would have to have the dish as the centerpiece.

ingredients for the new Irish stew

Here, in his Joyce’s words (at pp.189-190)—which are surprisingly easy to understand, compared to most of the book—is the recipe for “your new Irish stew.” [The captions in brackets under the photos are my editorial comments.], who sleep at our vigil and fast for our feast, you with your dislocated reason, have cutely foretold...(O hell, here comes our funeral! O pest, I’ll miss the post!) that the more carrots you chop,

[note the recipe book on hand for easy reference]

the more turnips you slit,

the more murphies you peel,

the more onions you cry over,

the more bullbeef you butch,

the more mutton you crackerhack,

[I used lamb neck, since mutton is hard to find
and is a tad gamey, in any case]

the more potherbs you pound,

[oregano and flat-leaf parsley are what happened to be in my garden]

the fiercer the fire

and the longer your spoon and the harder you gruel with more grease to your elbow

the merrier fumes your new Irish stew.

So now you can say you’ve read a part of Finnegans Wake. And understood it!

I admit I added some steps to the recipe: I floured the bullbeef and mutton and browned it, and then braised the meat, carrots and turnips in Guinness stout (JJ would have approved of this, as Arthur Guinness and Sons features prominently in the book.) I roasted the chopped murphies and onions in the oven with the potherbs, and added them to the stew at the very end. Here it is plated up, along with the delicious Irish soda bread Cathy made for the meal:

Cathy also made a light and creamy Carrageen moss blancmange for dessert. (I have to admit that whenever I hear the word blancmange, I think of that exceedingly silly Monty Python skit about the dessert become incarnate. See here, and start at 1:45.) You can see Cathy’s blancmange on the left of this photo of our dinner party:

And here is a close-up of a slice, showing the raspberry and brandy(?) sauce she made to go with it.

We move on to Part II of Finnegans Wake next meeting—quite the milestone. But as Robin and I leave this week for four months in Fairbanks, Alaska (more about that in later posts), I will have to follow along with the Wake via phone calls to catch up on what’s been discussed.


  1. I'm certain this is the best thing Joyce EVER wrote...

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