Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boston and the Irish Population

Boston might well be regarded as the capital of Irish America. As a percentage of the population, Massachusetts is the most Irish state, with about a quarter of the population claiming Irish descent. New England remains the most Irish-American part of the country, with New Hampshire contributing a good portion of its population. 

Other cities in America with a large Irish population are Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. 

Interestingly, because of its history as a mining center, Butte, Montana, is also one of the country's most thoroughly Irish-American cities. Many of the miners from the Beara Peninsula, who had worked in the copper mines in Allihes in southwest Cork, traveled to Butte for work in the mines. 

There are large populations of Irish Americans in the South, as well, particularly in Charleston (South Carolina) and New Orleans (Louisiana) and also in Washington, DC, and the states of Delaware and Florida. 

With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, many organizations are celebrating their "Irish-ness" with concerts, ceilis, plays, festivals, and parades. Don't miss out. Check out the St. Patrick's Day Parade Schedule and other Irish related March Events in Greater Boston at The Boston Irish Tourism Association's Irish Massachusetts website.  See also the BITA related blog sites: 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day for Dublin

Visting Dublin soon? View the official online tourist office for Dublin and don't forget to enter the dates you will be there to see what Dublin events are happening.

Watch Dublin Tourism's promotional DVD with backing track from U2!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Irish-American Oatmeal

Here are two versions of this thick and creamy Irish oatmeal recipe, the original is from Cook’s Illustrated (membership required) courtesy of my sister. My preferred recipe is one I adapted to my own tastes. Both recipes are below with my simplified and preferred recipe first. Both recipes work well with the steel cut Irish oats or with the more customary American style rolled oats. It's great for breakfast or any time.

This recipe makes a big batch, which is handy to re-heat as needed during the week. I refer to it here as Irish-American Oatmeal, as it is based on the original "Irish Oatmeal" recipe but I have adapted it to my American tastes. Over time, I have become accustomed to the coarse cut oats. There is some discussion whether there are more health benefits from steel cut oats than rolled oats; but in the end I think its just a matter of preference.

Thick and Creamy Oatmeal

• 4 cups water
• 2 cups milk of choice (my preference: 1 cup soy milk & 1 cup fat-free milk)
• 2 cups rolled oats (not instant)* or steel cut oats (if using steel-cut, you may need up to 2 cups more liquid)

Optional: (see more optional ingredients and toppings below)**
• 1  apple, peeled and chopped (it's OK to throw apples in once the oatmeal starts to thicken)
• 1 cup raisins (prefer California Golden raisins; rinse to clean them and soak them while oats are cooking)

*If using rolled oats, use Old Fashioned Oats that normally require 5 minutes cooking time.

Combine the ingredients in any order in a large, heavy-duty pan; I usually start with the oats and let them toast while I prepare the liquids. Bring to a low rolling boil (about 5 minutes, watch carefully so it doesn't boil over) and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally; you may need to reduce heat as it thickens so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan (or after it comes to a boil, set on lowest heat for up to an hour). Add chopped apple and raisins and continue to cook for an additional 7 minutes or until the apples are softened. There's no harm in cooking this longer, but it does thicken as it settles.

That's it. It's just a little more time-consuming than the 5-minute variety but it is so much creamier and smoother, it's worth the extra effort. This makes a big batch so put the leftovers in the fridge and heat up a bowlful at a time; reheat a minute or so in the microwave or on the stove with a little more liquid. This actually tastes better the next day or even a few days later. It shouldn't require any additional milk when served and the plump and juicy raisins and apples should provide all the sweetness you could want. Of course, you can add your own optional ingredients and try different ways of cooking it. One of these days I'm going to put all the ingredients in a slow cooker and see how that comes out - how simple would that be?

Here is the original recipe, which uses the steel cut oats. It's good, too, but I prefer the taste without the salt and butter.

Cooks Illustrated Irish Oatmeal*

Ingredients (4 servings)
• 3 cups water
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 cup steel cut oatmeal ~ Irish oatmeal (example: McCann's, see prep hints)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt (save salt for last 7 – 10 minutes of cooking time)

Ingredients (doubled, 8 servings)
6 cups water
2 cups milk
2 TBSP butter
2 cups oats
1/2 tsp. Salt (save salt for last 7 – 10 minutes of cooking time)

1. In a large saucepan bring water and milk to simmer over medium heat. (When bringing milk to the boiling point, stand by the pot to ensure it does not boil over ~ put a clear (if possible) cover on the pan to hasten the process but leave it tilted so the steam can escape.)
2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a medium skillet (a wok works well) over medium heat until just beginning to foam; add oats and toast the oats, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until golden and fragrant, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
3. Stir toasted oats into the simmering liquid; reduce heat to medium-low; stir occasionally, about 20 minutes uncovered.
4. Add salt and continue cooking, stirring occasionally 7 to 10 minutes more.
5. Let stand 5 minutes.

Start to Finish: 30 minutes.
*Original recipe from a hand-written note (parentheses are my additions)

**Optional Extras: (not in the original recipe) and not needed to enjoy this thick and creamy dish.

For added sweetness, top with agave nectar, sugar, sugar substitute or maple syrup.
If oatmeal is too thick, top with a splash of milk.

Stir in any of the following fresh or dried fruit, nuts, grains, and flavorings or use your own favorite near the end of cooking time; for the most part, they only require 5 minutes or less.

· Apples and raisins make a great combination and you probably won’t need sugar
· Flax seeds and/or sesame seeds (add with the oats)
- Peeled and chopped fresh peach, pear, or apple: 1 piece of fruit or 1 cup
· Prunes
· Raisins, currants, or snipped pitted whole dates, 1/4 cup
· Dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried apricots or other dried fruit
· Wheat berries that have been precooked in apple juice
· Raw unsalted cashews – may be sprinkled on top
· A dash of cinnamon (or 1/8 teaspoon)
· A “tropical trail mix” (nuts) with dried shredded coconut
· Semi-sweet chocolate bits – add a handful after cooking in the standing phase

PS: Enjoying the coarse cut Irish Oatmeal at work.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Win a Free DVD copy of Irish Film KISSES

For a chance to win a free copy of Lance Daly's KISSES on DVD, send an email to promos@oscilloscope.net with the subject heading "KISSES in Boston".

KISSES was screened by the Boston Irish Film Festival in Boston in August 2009 and has just been released on DVD. See previous blog post for more on this tender coming of age movie of two runaways on the Dublin streets. View the trailer at the Coolidge Corner Theatre website

Winners will be announced by November 5th!

The IFFB (Irish Film Festival Boston) recently screened another Irish film, A SHINE OF RAINBOWS, in Hingham, Massachusetts (October 21). This is a film by Vic Sarin starring Aidan Quinn and Connie Nielson. The film won eleven film festival awards in 2009. View trailer.

"The poignant tale of a loving mother, a reluctant father and the extraordinary journey that brings a young orphan home."  [About the Film]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Irish Websites

If you're looking for a good Irish website, you should find what you want at the Irish Web Awards website where you'll find this handy Irish Web Awards shortlist for 2010.

There's the Cork News, a weekly news and lifestyle publication. LookWest.ie features information on living in the West of Ireland in the counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Rosscommon, Galway, and Clare. The Irish Film Board website will keep you up to date on Irish films. [Did you see Ondine?] View Irish street art at Twelve Doors. Event Elephant will allow event organizer to post an event and sell tickets online. People are connecting with one another on the Irish Abroad Facebook page. Find your way around Trinity College in Dublin on their visitors page. See what's on TV at RTE television. So many good websites!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


From director Lance Daly (interview) (Last Days in Dublin, The Halo Effect) comes the story of two young runaways living on the fringes of Dublin who discover both beauty and danger in the big city. Kylie lives with 5 siblings and an overworked mother. Next door, Dylan is growing up with an abusive father and the memory of his runaway brother. One day, after a violent altercation with his father, Dylan and Kylie flee. Together they make their way to the magical lights of downtown Dublin to search for Dylan's brother and the hope of a new life. 

Shane Curry and Kelly O'Neill in "Kisses"

Dublin, as shown through the innocent eyes of our young protagonists, is a kaleidoscope of magic, wonder and mystery. But as the night wears on, Dublin takes on a darker character and the two children learn that they have to rely on the kindness of strangers and the sagely wisdom of Bob Dylan to persevere. Featuring two incredible breakthrough performances by Shane Curry and Kelly O'Neill, Kisses is a tale of two children who test the limits of what life can become and in the process learn what they can do for each other.

For screening times and advance tickets, visit www.coolidge.org. Tickets are also available at the Coolidge Corner Theater Box Office, 290 Harvard Street, Brookline.  For more information, visit the website or call  617-734-2500.

Read reviews and watch trailer: 

Entertainment.ie  "Lance Daly ... takes a massive gamble with two young debutants in the lead roles but it pays off, big time."

IFC.com review "...all of a sudden, Ireland is a hotbed of child acting talent..." 

NPR.org review   'Kisses': Kids At Large In A Dylan-Haunted Dublin (3 scenes on video clip)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Talking With Your Eyes" in Killarney

Last February when I was in Ireland for "The Gathering" of Irish traditional music and set dancing, I enjoyed a Wednesday night in town at the Grand Hotel, in the back, for a night of set dancing to the tunes of the Johhny Reidy Ceili Band. I think the band is great - it brings to mind the sound of Johhny Cash, particularly in this video, where the dancers are doing either a quick step [here's a quick lesson on video, or rather a "quick quick slow slow" lesson] or dancing the jive [jive dance lessons here].

View the video "Talking With Your Eyes" on YouTube.

Talking With Your Eyes