Where new writing finds its voice

Irish Beef

Roddy Lumsden

They say hunger is the best sauce
but no hunger will cause me finish
the stroganoff at Shannon Airport.
If hunger is the best sauce, let me
assure you all that the worst sauce
must be the stroganoff at Shannon,

for if this is Irish beef, these cattle
must have dropped in Yeats’s day
to end up here, this grey and tough,
in a bowl at Shannon. And if these
are Irish mushrooms (somewhere
men are weeping), then they taste

as if they’d sprouted in a filthy shed.
And if these are Irish red peppers
(somewhere women weeping), they
taste much as a severed hand might.
If this is Irish cream, you should
use it to drown puppies, and tamp

cracks in an outhouse wall. And if
this is Irish rice, point me to where 
the paddies lie. And why, if these 
are Irish onions, then it’s no wonder
so many are weeping. Stroganoff,
noble name of saltworks fortune,

how low you are driven, down here
in Shannon which all your counts
and barons and governor generals
failed to visit, though the sad-eyed
serving girls who ladle portions
are Jadvyga, Ruta and and Vitalija.

Your merchants, Stroganoffs, never
would have bought this industrial
tomato purée redolent of thinners
and bicycle inners. Your artisans
would have shunned the mustard
powder concocted in a compound

that knows no light. Your scions
would never have seen this shade
of sauce, the colour the pipework
is painted in the public lavatories 
of ruined seaside towns. So weep,
Stroganoffs, weep sour cream tears

for inauspicious Shannon, rip up
your tickets, burn your maps, better
a return to peasantry than fall prey
to a yokel error of ordering any dish
described as ‘creamy’. In Vietnam
they suck on deep-fried tarantulas, 

innards and all; in Hong Kong, they
scoop brains fresh from the monkey;
some perverts even eat taramasalata
and sleep sound at night. But there
is no empathy like that which I felt,
meeting eyes with a doleful woman 

at a nearby table, who was spooning,
with the same damnation and abandon
a nine euro bowlful of dust and misery.
Brothers, sisters, if I leave one legacy
to the world, it is this advice. Never,
never select the stroganoff at Shannon.