Cork, how do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
Ask any Cork person why they’ve made their home on the banks of their own lovely Lee and they’ll immediately offer you at least a half-hour’s worth.
Now Cork’s own Pat Fitzpatrick has listed everything we know to be true in a handy book: 101 Reasons Why Cork is Better Than Dublin.
A bargain €6.99, it’s perfectly portable (so you can bring it along whenever you need to venture into the Pale or whip it out in an emergency should you encounter a Dublin person).
Here are just five of the reasons the capital isn’t a patch on the Rebel County:
1. CRAFTY CORK
A 2017 report by Bord Bia found that Cork has ten microbreweries against Dublin’s seven. (Yay – it’s all about small wins when you come from the second city.)
You might say this is nothing to crow about. Craft beer seems like a good idea, until you wake up the next day with a pale-ale headache the size of Macroom.
Worse again, some craft beers feel like they are made by people who googled ‘how to make beer in the bath’, followed by ‘bullshit provenance story involving a hairy Gael, Vikings or an ancient well’.
But when craft beer is good, it’s great. It’s certainly better than big brand lagers – one sip there and you’re wondering why they didn’t call it Wrestler’s Jockstrap. (It didn’t play well in the focus groups, apparently.)
If you want world-beating craft beer in Ireland now, you’re talking about places like Franciscan Well, Rising Sons, 8 Degrees and Elbow Lane. Three of those are in Cork city centre, with 8 Degrees in Mitchelstown. No wonder Cork is chokka with hipster types cycling around town showing off their beards. (And that’s just the women, says you, full of hipster hate.)
Or Cafe Paradiso to anyone over the age of twenty-five. The vegetarian restaurant on the Western Road is the place to bring anyone who normally makes a frowny face because they can’t get a steak. It could convert the most passionate meat-eater into a vegetarian in two hours flat.
Denis Cotter co-founded it in 1993, back when the veggie scene in Dublin was still in its dreadlocks and lentils phase. A good name for a veggie restaurant in the capital then would have been: Just Eat Your Fucking Nutroast, OK?
Meanwhile, Cotter was doing amazing things with aubergine, artichoke and stinky cheese. Better still, he was sourcing his ingredients from small growers that he knew in the local area. Cafe Paradiso had a heart long before the rest of the world cottoned on to air-miles and those imposters who claim that everything they offer is ‘made with passion in small batches by local artisan suppliers.’ (AKA, my Dad gave me twenty grand so I started baking gluten free cookies as a kind of a business, for the crack, like.)
The service is the other thing that sets Paradiso apart. A lot of visitors from Dublin are shocked to find staff that actually smiles at you, rather than acting like they just got terrible news about some flesh-eating disease.
3. TAKE IT AWAY
You probably can’t afford to eat in Paradiso everyday, of course (unless you can, in which case, have you seen my GoFundMe page?). For takeaway at Cork prices, head up Barrack Street to the Bandon Road, where you’ll find Jackie Lennox’s chip shop, best in the planet (along with KCs in Douglas), and home to the finest lip-readers in the world.
Order Taker: ‘Who’s next?’
Completely Pissed Punter, fifteen metres away, in a queue stretching out the door, with a bus passing just behind him: ‘Hona-wona, wona-hona, wona-hona-hona-wona, no onions on the second wona, wona-hona.’
Order Taker: ‘Two Jackies, no onions on one, cheese and onion pie. Who’s next?’
Genius. Now head north-east down Barrack Street. Artisan pizza to the right (La Tana), artisan pizza with pint to the left (Tom Barry’s). You’d get it in Dublin, but not at this price.
Turn right at the bottom of the hill. Miyazaki takeaway. You can’t get this in Dublin, not at any price. Sidle up behind the Dublin hipsters in the queue who have travelled down to Cork because they read the latest Miyazaki review in The Irish Times. Whisper the average price of a house around here, compared to what they paid in Stoneybatter. Try not to laugh when they start crying; it’s just not a great look.
4. TRADITIONAL DISHES
Not all Cork food is great. It’s hard to make a case for food culture in a city where people are openly cooking bodice for their family. In case you haven’t heard the term before, bodice is the Cork word for revenge. You serve it to someone who clearly did you a terrible injustice in the past. The recipe is ‘take perfectly good spare ribs and boil the shite out of them instead of putting them in the oven.’ It’s like somebody in Cork misread the instructions 200 years ago and their descendants have been too embarrassed to admit their mistake. They are also terrified to call over to their Mam’s house, in case she is cooking bodice. The smell. Jesus.
And yet it’s better than coddle, Dublin’s so-called claim to culinary fame. Coddle is short-hand for ‘Yiz are going to regret this.’ The recipe is to find some scraps in the bin, spit on them, add two sprigs of parsley and stir for ten minutes while saying ‘Yiz thinks yiz are great with your Asian fusion doughnuts and dat.’ Delicious.
And before you jump in with, ‘what about Dublin Bay Prawns?’, well I’ve seen Dublin Bay up close and I wouldn’t touch something taken out of there with yours.
You didn’t seriously think I was going to do a book about Cork and not include the fizzy drink Tanora as one of the 101 reasons why it’s better than Dublin. You might as well write a book about Germany and skip the twentieth century.
Tanora does enough to earn its place in the book with the classic advertising ditty, ‘Wet your whistle with Tanora, it’s the wan you’ll want some-more-aah.’ That’s ditty gold right there, presumably from the pen of the Cork Hibernians (google them) fan who came up with ‘Starry Starry Night, Paint your Langer Green and White’.
Fizzy drinks are out of fashion these days, because we’ve all seen Channel 5 shows with names like I Drank 76 bottles of Coke and Look at Me Now. But that doesn’t prevent us Cork people from force-feeding Tanora to our kids in a fit of nostalgia.
‘Put down your new shagging iPhone and have a slug of this,’ we shout at them over Christmas dinner, pretending that things were better in the past. At this point their little faces light up, possibly because of sugar poisoning, as they realise that Tanora is deliciously bold and cranky and different, a bit like the city it comes from.
They pause for a second and say:
‘Why does this taste so good, Dad?’
‘Because it isn’t from Dublin.’
You might as well start them young.
Pat Fitzpatrick’s 101 Reasons Why Cork is Better Than Dublin is in bookshops now, published by Mercier Press. It’s €6.99 (bargain like) and available online too here.
Main image: James Lynch, Insta: @jimjam194