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The Irish Staples a Non-Irish Can Adore

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Before both products were widely available in "regular" grocery stores, I would sneak from Chelsea to the Bronx, under the cover of darkness and on a regular basis, to hit up the Irish specialty markets. I wasn't hiding from anything, per se—I was satisfying a fully-formed addiction.

You see, I once dated an Irish guy who lived in the neighborhood of Woodlawn (basically Bronx Ireland) and during that relationship I grew another attachment—as it turned out, far more long-lasting than the first—to Kerrygold butter and Barry’s Gold Blend tea.

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Photo by James Ransom

Kerrygold butter is sweet. Kerrygold is gloriously salty. It’s so smooth, so creamy, so very yellow! It’s high in butterfat content (because why not?), and it’s the product of dairy cows that munch on that beautiful green Irish land for about two-thirds of the year. Smear it on a piece of toast or on the outside of your grilled cheese sandwich; the pigment from the beta-carotene in the grass will stain your bread.

There's something religious about peeling back the foil wrapper, and then there's the sense of accomplishment you'll get from making the double-wide slab sit and look right in a standard butter dish. My predominately Italian family absolutely insists I make the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, solely because I will not hesitate to dump in an entire brick of Kerrygold and they don’t have to take responsibility for it.

Photo by James Ransom

I say that if you are going to eat butter, it should be the most fantastic butter, and Kerrygold is the most fantastic butter.

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Besides becoming knowingly Kerrygold-addicted, I also learned to make a “proper cup of tea” on an extended trip to Ireland. I was taught, I think, so I wouldn’t embarrass myself or the family in front of the endless stream of aunts and neighbors who "called around," as they term dropping in at any hour whatsoever, for daily visits. First, you must start each kettle with fresh, cold tap water—never, ever re-boil the water used for the last round, this is a cardinal sin of tea-making! Then tea bag and sugar are plopped into an empty mug, boiling water is poured over, and some whole milk dribbled in to finish it off. After a mysterious, undetermined amount of time, everyone gives their tea a good stir and fishes the bag out with a spoon. Bags are either tossed or used to fertilize the roses.

You can always spot Kerrygold by its golden wrapper.
You can always spot Kerrygold by its golden wrapper.

The same aunts and neighbors introduced me to Barry's tea.

My life before Barry’s was a wasteland of weak, sad, tasteless black teas. If you’re serious about your tea drinking, you must try it immediately. It’s rich, strong as hell, and has the prettiest golden-brown color. I squirrel away tea bags everywhere I think I might find myself and go on vacations with baggies of the stuff. It’s a sickness, and I’m proud.

I like to steep my Barry’s for about thirty seconds—it’s so strong and I’m so weak!—but some prefer to let it brew for so long the spoon practically stands up on its own.

Gammy's Irish Soda Bread—For St. Patrick's Day and Every Day
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Gammy's Irish Soda Bread—For St. Patrick's Day and Every Day

Tea-time for me, and I might just find something to butter while I’m at it. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Irish blessings:

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
Half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Do you have a butter or tea allegiance? Fess up in the comments.

Tags: butter, kerrygold, barry's tea