A sybaritic day in Tipperary is all I can say. Morning tea at Erica and Simon’s long table and a perusal of what hadn’t been read of yesterday’s papers (Guardian and Irish Times). At 9 we all went off to Cahir, me driving so I would learn the way, to eat porridge in the River Café. After breakfast we went across the street to the Saturday market, small and familial. The stalls are eclectic: wooden bowls next to the man who sells eggs out of the back of his car, young potter selling mostly seconds to clear out her inventory. Two stalls with vegetables: One had only carrots and cabbage. The carrots were as big around as a child’s wrist. The other stall had some greens for cooking and, by the time we arrived, just a handful of shell peas left. The highlight of the market is the fishmonger, tucked into the back corner of the parking lot. Here there was a line. The two fish sellers were chatting up the crowds, calling most of the customers by name and anticipating many of their orders. We got an enormous piece of cod, which they filleted on a cutting board right above the display case, sweeping the skin and bones into a plastic tub. Erica told me later that if you ask, the fish sellers will dump some of the bits and pieces into a plastic bag for you to make fish stock or, for the cleaner bits, a fish pie. They don’t charge for these. I bought John Dory, a flat and delicate fish with an ovoid shape and spiny fins. The man filleted that for me and asked if one fish (which doesn’t yield much flesh once the fins and skeleton are gone) was enough. For a treat we also bought oysters. Simon asked for nine, but instead the man counted out six, put those back in the bowl, and dumped the rest into a bag for us. We didn’t know until we got home how many we had, but since Erica opted out of eating them Simon and I had more than enough between us.
The little market was practically overrun with Americans. Besides Erica and myself there was Joan, who has come here in summer for the better part of her ninety years, and two of her daughters, who were visiting. One is from Majorca and one is from Petaluma, where Joan lives when she is not in Tipperary. The Ferry Building in San Francisco, where Maggie’s daughter has a spot, seemed very far away from this ten-stall market in a car park with the walls of a twelfth-century castle looming over all of us.
Back home, and a salad lunch that consisted of warmed duck breast, fried polenta and the arugula that I had brought down with me from Ballindoolin. The duck and polenta were left over from last night’s dinner. The salad was unlikely but delicious, as is everything Simon puts his hand to in the kitchen. While Erica and Simon prepared for their upcoming trip to Italy I watched the women’s final of Wimbledon, and although the outcome was pre-ordained the match had some terrific moments. After so many weeks of no TV or internet the act of sitting down to watch anything at all seemed indulgent.
Tennis over, chores moving along, and rain showers calming down, we all set out across the field behind their house, which involves climbing over a wooden stile. Up through the farm yard where the cows were just heading in for their evening milking, then along the roads and back down the two boreens to the house. The boreens were menacing when I first started visiting here, but they have become part of the expected landscape for me and I don’t mind them at all except for the terrible scraping of hedgerow on the rental car.
We got nicely damp on the walk, a great excuse for a sauna. Erica and Simon installed a sauna when they first arrived. It faces the back of the property, the little porch overlooking the same field that we had crossed for the walk. I had forgotten how relaxing a sauna can be; once I got used to the baking. I didn’t want to leave it, but the misty air felt fantastic when I finally and reluctantly stepped back outside and crossed the lawn.
Hot showers, then oysters and local paté washed down with Erica’s elderflower cordial, and a quivering mound of just-cooked cod with some parsley pesto, made by the same woman who does the patés. Dessert was berries, also from the market, a cross between black currants and gooseberries that no one seemed to be able to identify by name and that I had de-stemmed earlier in the day.