The other day, we were trying to find something new or different to do for next week’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Corned Beef and Cabbage are really fine, and so is Irish Soda Bread, but what other recipes could we add to our Irish repertoire?
And then we hit on it: James Joyce’s Irish retelling of the Homeric poem, Ulysses. The epic story (one might even call it an odyssey, ha) takes place in a single day in Dublin. What could be more Irish than that?
Better yet, the narrator and (anti)hero, Leopold Bloom, is often eating, or musing at length about about the food he (mostly) loves to eat.
We’ll leave exploration of “the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed foast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod’s roes” that Bloom likes to a braver food-writing soul, and instead make a menu of his midday meal.
Bloom goes to Davy Byrne’s on Grafton Street (which is a real establishment that is still in business today). There, he orders a Gorgonzola sandwich, “a nice salad” and a glass of burgundy. “Mr. Bloom ate his strips of sandwich, fresh clean bread. . . pungeant mustard, the feety savour of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate.” Bloom muses, “After all there’s a lot in that vegetarian fine flavour of things from the earth.”
So here, for your St. Patrick’s Day lunch enjoyment, is the very simple “recipe” for Bloom’s Gorgonzola Sandwich:
Butter the sliced bread and then spread with a layer of mustard.
Add lettuce leaves, and layer with thinly sliced tomato and cheese. Grind a little pepper atop the cheese, and finish with another slice of bread.
Makes 4 to 6 hearty sandwiches
A close reading of the text recommended. To keep true to Joyce’s story, and Leopold Bloom’s lunch menu, serve the Gorgonzola sandwiches with ‘a few olives too if they had them. Italian I prefer. Good glass of burgundy take away that. Lubricate. A nice salad, cool as a cucumber, Tom Kernan can dress. Puts gusto into it. Pure olive oil. Milly served me that cutlet with a sprig of parsley. Take one Spanish onion. God made food, the devil the cooks.’ (U 218-219)
For extra literary-foodie credit. If you’re a really hard-core Ulysses / food enthusiast, or you need to take your St. Patrick’s Day (or “Bloomsday” in June) to the next level, you may also want to check out Alison Armstrong’s The Joyce of Cooking.