Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Breakfast and Literature

Now, as I am writing this, we have just finished our third day of classes here in Ireland. But the first, second, and third day of classes were all very busy, and I was very tired yesterday, so I hope it isn't out of line for me to talk about the first day of classes now and not two days ago.

Class in Ireland is great. We are only in two classes, Irish Literature and Irish Geology (those are not the official course names, but I don't remember the actual course names because they are long and strangely specific, so I just use these names when I think about them in my head), so we are only in class from 8:30 to 12:00. Lately we have been starting to develop a schedule which has worked well: wake up at 7:45, meet with the rest of our literature class outside at 7:55, and get to breakfast at 8:00.

If you have not ever had an Irish breakfast, you are missing out. Of all the meals, the Irish seem to know how to do breakfast the best. Let me just preface this by saying that virtually all food tastes better in Ireland, especially the dairy products. The locals tell you that when in the grocery store, as a rule, you should check where the dairy products (milk and butter particularly, but also eggs) were made, and if they aren't Irish, to just put them back. Irish milk is creamy and frothy, and even adding it to something as simple as cereal makes the cereal (by my estimation) 148% better. Eggs are thick and rich and stick together in the pan, and the fried eggs here are never more than three inches across because they coagulate so spectacularly. The butter is... well, the butter is something you will just have to taste for yourself.

A full Irish breakfast. Not my picture. I'm usually too busy eating to bother with taking pictures.

A full Irish breakfast consists of sausage, rashers (bacon), fried eggs, hash browns, white pudding, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, and one or more pastries. Of all the ways to start the day, this is the best. I would walk on my hands all the way to the dining hall to get one, if I had to. I wake up at 7:45, but I would wake up at 5:00am if I knew one of these was waiting for me. I would crawl on my hands and knees through a mile-long trough of fingernail clippings to catch a whiff of an Irish breakfast. I would roll down a poop-covered hill with pine needles in my underpants while malicious pixies poured buckets full of gravel along my path to look at a grainy cellphone picture of an empty plate after an Irish breakfast was eaten off it. I would pump my veins full of vats of cholesterol every morning for years if I--oh, wait.

Well, it's worth it.

After breakfast, we pop across the hall (lucky it's so close, because I have trouble walking after breakfast) to Irish Literature. Our professor, Lionel Pilkington, is a delightfully Irish theater historian with a deep knowledge of the Irish Renaissance (the Celtic Revival to everyone else) and a charming penchant for getting distracted and going off on Marxist critique sessions. He is an older man, with wiry gray hair and a scraggly beard, well over six feet tall, bony in an energetic way, and perpetually sweaty. He likes to read the lines we discuss in character, and often overacts them to the point of awkwardness. He is proficient with American slang and loves to learn new phrases. Here is a conversation we had today:

Pilkington: And so Pegeen here says she won't--she doesn't--well, how does she feel?
Lily: She won't settle!
Pilkington: Ahaha! Yes, she won't settle! HAHAHAHA--wait, what does that mean?

This sort of thing happens multiple times a day. It is a wonderful class to wake up to, and if you ever feel yourself drifting off to sleep on account of the early start, Prof. Pilkington's wild arm-waving and often-nonsensical in-character babbling is sure to wake you up.

The class is mainly focused on theater, particularly theater during and after the Irish Renaissance, and so we focus on Lady Gregory and her cronies, particularly Synge, and later on Joyce and other more contemporary Irish authors. The course seems to be arranged chronologically, with the oldest works first, but we are moving at a very fast pace, and I expect we will be well into modern literature in a couple days. So far, I love it. Here is what Sarah thinks about it:

"It's hilarious. It's less literature, more plays and context, which I really like."

Me too.

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