Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Robert St. John: When Irish Eyes are Smiling in Spain

 Irish pubs have always intrigued me. The attraction doesn’t come from the typical things one expects from a pub. I’m not interested in Guinness on tap, or Irish whiskey, or any alcohol for that matter. I’m not a prude, and I’m certainly not against responsible alcohol consumption (it put both of my kids through college), but I’ve been clean and sober since 1983. Trust me the world is a better— and safer— place without drunk Robert stumbling around in it.

I’m not quite sure where the intrigue comes from, but I think it has to do with the people. I love the Irish. My favorite Irish pub outside of the British Isles is The James Joyce in Madrid. The James Joyce is owned by a quick-witted, energetic, and acerbic Irishman, Matthew Loughney. Raised in Dublin, he moved to Madrid in 2006 and has been running this country’s best Irish pub ever since.


My wife and I are in Spain about to host 25 Americans from all over the southern part of the United States through Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Malaga. I will be consuming 36 Spanish-themed meals over the next 12 days. I thought I’d get a little Irish pub grub in before the serious tapas-ing begins.

We arrived yesterday but I won’t officially start working until this afternoon. It is always my practice when traveling overseas to do my best to sleep on the flight to Europe and stay awake on the return. Yesterday I was only able to grab a couple of hours on the plane ride over. It is also my practice— and I advise my guests to do the same— to do my best to push through the jet lag and try to stay awake until around 10pm on the day I have landed. It’s not easy, but I have found that when I do I go down hard, and my body clock adjusts to the local time much easier. 


Upon arrival yesterday, I was more tired than usual but didn’t want to nap as I would probably be wide awake at 3:00 a.m. and it would take several days to adjust. My wife and I walked around the city for a bit, mainly waiting for the James Joyce to open at noon. When the doors opened, we were there.


It should be noted that I am a firm believer and staunch proponent of eating local wherever I am. Though there are exceptions, and since I will be on an all-out Spanish food bacchanal for the next 12 days, I allowed myself a deviation. The James Joyce is worthy of deviance. We had a lunch of fish and chips and spoke with Loughney about the restaurant/bar business, travel, and what’s happened since we last saw each other 12 months ago. He let us know that Ireland was playing Scotland in rugby later that day and the pub would be packed, but he could save us a spot if we were interested. It should also be noted that the answer to that question should always be, “yes.”


On our return, the pub was raucous and rowdy as one might expect. But it wasn’t all Irish. The Scots accounted for one third of the crowd. My knowledge of rugby is extremely limited. I was recruited to play on my freshman college team but was more interested in 12-ounce curls in the barroom than flankers and drop kicks on the rugby field. We didn’t have a dog in the Ireland vs Scotland fight, but pledged our allegiance to the Irish since we were in our friend’s pub.


If I weren’t already a fan of Irish pubs before yesterday’s visit, then I certainly would have been converted mid-game yesterday afternoon. It was a blast. Ireland hadn’t beaten Scotland in their last eight games, but they won yesterday and the crowd— or at least the Irish in the crowd— was loving it and singing in unison by the end of the game.


Irish pub food is right up my alley. I’m a fish and chips guy— or at least the American version of those items— from childhood. Beef stews, lamb, mashed potatoes, sausage, and the like are all in my culinary wheelhouse. Beef in Guinness sauce and Shepard’s Pie both speak to the foods of my youth as my grandmother was a master of lamb, beef pot roast, and mashed potatoes. 


There’s a certain energy level in an Irish pub that appeals to me. It’s an energy that comes from a strong mixture of a particular attitude, love of food and drink, love of country and fellow countrymen, a history of endurance, constant ribbing of one another, festive music, and just the right amount of don’t-give-a-damn, with a little bit of us-against-the-world mentality thrown in, that makes Irish pubs unique in the bar category. 


Like Ireland, the American South has experienced a rough and hard history. The attitude of the Irish is a lot like American Southerners in that we endure, and we carry on. We take our hits, and we bounce back, moving ever forward.


When Loughney is asked, “What makes a great Irish pub?” he can sum it up in three words, “It’s the welcome.” That’s something I’ve never consciously thought of, but it is certainly something I have experienced in every Irish pub I have ever visited. He’s right. It’s the welcome. The beer, the food, the atmosphere, and the sports are all great, but it’s the welcome that makes the first impression that lasts through the entire visit.


Even the Scots were welcome yesterday. So were a couple of visitors from Mississippi.


I slept for nine hours last night. I haven’t slept for nine hours since I was in my twenties. I am rested and ready to spend the next eight weeks leading five separate groups of new friends through Spain, Tuscany, and Holland/Belgium. 



Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Salad 

Salad Dressing


1 Tbl                    dijon mustard

1 tsp                     sugar

1 Tbl                    shallots, minced

3 Tbl                    balsamic vinegar

1/4  cup                cottonseed oil

1/2 cup                 virgin olive oil

1 Tsp                    fresh black pepper

1 Tsp                    kosher salt

1 Tbl                    fresh basil

1 cup                    tomato, finely diced


Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend together using a wire whisk. Refrigerate until needed. This dressing will hold for 4-5 days refrigerated.


Garlic Croutons


1/2 cup                olive oil

1 Tbl                   fresh garlic, minced

3 cups                 French bread cubes (1”)

1/2 Tbl                kosher salt


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.


Place the oil in a small sauté pan over low heat. Add the garlic to the war oil and cook for two minutes. Place the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl and drizzle the garlic oil over the bread. Toss the bread several times to ensure that all bread has been mixed well with the oil. Place the bread on a baking she and sprinkle the kosher salt over the unbaked croutons. Bake for 10 minutes. Gently turn the croutons on the baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.


For The Salad


2-14 ounce cans      hearts of palm, 1/4 inch slice on a bias

2-12 ounce jars        marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 cup                        red onion, thinly shaved

3 cups                      romaine lettuce, cut into thin pieces

3/4 cup                    Romano cheese, shredded, divided

3 cups                      garlic croutons


Place the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, red onions, romaine lettuce, half of the cheese and the croutons in a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing into the bowl and toss the ingredients with the dressing, making sure to coat everything completely. Place in a large 

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS