Hygge – described as a feeling or atmosphere of cozy comfort and warmth – has become a topic of aspiration outside of its Danish home. When discussing paella in Valencia, Saveur’s Matt Goulding discusses comboi: “the ritual that surrounds cooking and gathering to eat, drink, and be merry.” As for Galway, Ireland? It is all about having the craic.
The Gaelic word can be most closely translated to mean fun. However, craic has a certain whimsy that more fittingly describes the city and culture I have only begun to explore. A few examples come to mind.
Our first night in Galway, we craved a traditional taste of our new home’s cuisine. Ever the researchers – it is study abroad after all – we took to Yelp, my favorite crowd sourced tour guide. It is there we stumbled upon The Pie Maker. The crimson storefront with its clashing emerald doorways and elaborate gold lettering opens into a tiny, eclectic shop. As soon as you walk in, you’re overwhelmed by the way the conversation and olfactory deliciousness echo off walls decorated to the brim with measuring rulers and photos of JFK. While the restaurant offered savory and sweet options, the Irish sausage, leak and potato personal pie emerged as the contender. Five of us squeezed into a booth – although we are a house of eight so we ought to get used to close quarters – and soon strangers became companions. Leaving the funky little pie place, the streets were glowing with Christmas lights and the cobblestone was devastatingly charming. Although we did not have a word for it yet, the craic was officially on.
On Saturday, I celebrated my 21st birthday. The pubs in Galway are massive multi-room caverns filled with ornate dark wood, lavish paintings and even sometimes shelves of books. I rang in my birthday at The Front Door surrounded by people I had just met who treated my special day with the love and enthusiasm of old friends. The next day, my fellow traveling lad Hannah and I ventured to Cupan Tae. Similar to The Pie Maker, Cupan Tae also followed what seems like Galway-ean rule: if you have space, fill it! With an aesthetic best described as frilly doll house, I sifted through the lengthy tea menu under the diligent stare of dozens of glassy eyed dolls [I am sure this contributed to some subsequent restless nights]. The table was laden with delicate floral teal cups and tiny votive candles lit up soft purple walls. Sipping on my “Galway Cream Tea” – black tea, roasted coffee beans and jasmine flowers filled with decadent sugar cubes because I am embracing my horse side – we ate perhaps one of my favorite brunches ever. Potatoes [Ireland], rashers [a very strange named for bacon], bangers [I’m 21 but not immune to immaturity] and poached eggs sprinkled with matcha salt. That night, we once more had the craic – Irish pub’s are very attached to Macklemore – and enjoyed some live music played by a very cute guitarist I may or may not have planned my entire future with. While our day was a little more refined than our night, both embodied unique elements of Galway’s illustrious offerings. Special shout out to Hannah for being a huge part of making my birthday a special night and putting up with telling everyone it was my birthday even two days after the fact!
My encyclopedia of craic would not be complete without mentioning McDonalds and curry fries. In the past five years, I have probably eaten McDonalds six times and it was all McMuffins and hashbrowns. Since arriving in Galway – close your eyes, mom – I have gotten McDonalds three times. Not too bad, right? Right? But oh wait. That would be…three medium fries, two big macs, two little cheesburgers and one quarter pounder. I blame the dozens of vouchers we found in our mailbox!
But on Monday, because we are savages and Americans!™, it could not be stop there. In an effort to assert dominance over every potato in the country, we figured there could not be a better way to wash down our dainty McDonalds meal than with curry cheese fries. I encourage you to stop whatever awful thoughts and images are entering your head because this is a yum that shan’t not be yucked. I’m talking the mild vehicle of a fluffy french fry, lovingly draped by gooey cheddar shreds, doused in the beautifully spiced curry sauce. This is art courtesy of Charcoal Grill, where I also may or may not have planned an entirely different future in which I abandon the cute guitarist for a vat of fries.
If you have read up until this point then you have probably gathered that craic can be obtained in the following ways:
- Always be crowded. Booth for two? Squeeze in five. Apartment for four? Let’s double the tenants! Lecture hall with limited seats? Never cap class sizes!!!!!!!!!
- If there isn’t good reading material in the pub, you might as well have just stayed in.
- Live on a 1:3 people to doll ratio.
- Hoard an entire building complex worth of McDonalds vouchers.
- Do not doubt the power of curry cheese fries.
Now go out there and have the craic, lads!