There were bound to be some unpleasant repercussions from this Coronavirus but I never imagined it would come to this.
My post-primary education, except for the first year, was in boarding schools based near Dublin. It was over a hundred miles from home in Dungarvan and we only went home at Christmas and summer. Others came from all corners of the country and the accents of different counties was a new experience to my ears. I recall friends from counties Cork, Kerry, Clare, Offaly, Mayo, Tyrone and Down and we regularly made fun of each other’s accent, imitating and exaggerating; good banter!
We became aware of different backgrounds, the townies and the culchies, the city boys (it was an all-boys school) and the mountainy men, those who loved the sea and summer swimming and those who had never seen the ocean and were reluctant to dip a toe into the waves. We exchanged stories of what we would do at home and came to know of different ways of living even on our small island. We had different names for much the same thing – the Waterford blaa was the Belfast bap, for example.
One thing which shocked and amazed me, and still does to this day, was that there seemed to be an invisible line running roughly from Galway to Dublin which divided the country on one important gastronomic matter – how porridge was made. Those in the south, who lived in or around The Golden Vale, the rich dairy farmland which produces milk in abundance, made their porridge with milk while those to the north used water. To us southerners, porridge on water harked of famine necessity, of hungry days, of days of want. That was gruel! Think of Oliver Twist and the workhouse scene to gain a slight understanding of the southerner’s revulsion to such a concoction. One might feed the hens with it but certainly not consider it suitable for the kitchen table. To make the southern/northern divide even more stark, it was also common practice among those from the northern half of the country to put salt in the porridge while sugar was the preferred option in the south – and cream when it was to hand. The southerners liked their porridge rich!
Back to the present day: Shopping has been infrequent, non-existent for the last fortnight, since the arrival of Coronavirus COVID-19 but we have been very fortunate and grateful for the online ordering and home delivery service of our usual supermarket (Supervalu, Kilbarry). However, with the demand on this service, there is quite a gap between available dates – presently, there is no available slot up to the 11th of April. With such gaps, miscalculations and shortages are inevitable and the fresh products are first to run out. We ran out of milk! We only use milk for our breakfast cereal, generally muesli, and for making scones, never in coffee, so it had lasted quite well for us but the day came when we had no milk for our muesli. We switched to toast for a few days until the sliced bread ran out and then, it stared us in the face: we were running out of options and would have to make porridge on water and, yes, I remain a convinced and devoted southerner in love with milk, sugar and cream on my porridge!
I suppose if that is all we have to endure from the Coronavirus, we have little to be giving out about but it brought back memories of those lads in boarding school, those accents, those different backgrounds and stories and the northern gruel. Lord spare us from such again!