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Tastebuds Cork is Born!
Hoping to be the Pride of Michael Collins Square!
Welcome to my 30th Post Friends!
I have so much to tell you, so much great news and so much to be grateful for. Tastebuds is Reborn! I still can’t believe it! How it all came together is nothing short of a miracle! While I had wished to be open already, I’m sick with a viral chest infection, but this gives me a much-needed break and time for reflection. As I am heavily medicated and miserable, I will let my journals do a lot of the talking here if that is alright with you, my dear readers.
“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so his place will be proud of him.”
This quote describes perfectly the sentiments I have been feeling and those that I hope to convey in this newsletter.
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Wednesday 26th July 2023
Things are moving along pretty well with the food trailer, and THANK GOD for that, because I am really, really sweating my funds and the limits of my credit cards. I just keep telling myself, ‘I believe in you, Bridget!’
I face timed with Abaz tonight and he told me, “I know how you get. Don’t get stressed. Don’t try to do too much! Relax a little bit. Take it slow!”
Yes! 100%! This is Ireland and I need to relax my shoulders and just ease into it and learn to slow down and also to trust people. But I just keep causing myself unnecessary stress inadvertently. Like being so sure the coolers, outlets, and maybe even the lights on the trailer didn’t work because the seller who is not Irish BTW, but rather an American made no guarantees and had no plug and no interest at all in proving that anything worked. But when the electrician that I hired made a new plug, we discovered that everything worked!
In addition to that job, I asked him to install a couple of new outlets and I sat in the house worrying that I wouldn’t have enough cash in the house to pay him, especially when I saw that he had asked a friend of his to stop by and give him a hand. I expected the worst, to be gouged like I had been so many times back in the States, but no. It was all needless worrying, as he charged a very fair price.
I’m so used to being taken advantage of, this is all quite new to me here in Ireland. Independent contractors, small businesses, minimal costs. I’m really lucky to know so many good people. It’s incredible how this all came to be! A miracle really! It is truly, the food trailer that Michael Collins Square built! What a beautiful experience this has been!
But still, I go to bed every night with a pit in my stomach that I haven’t polished and published any of the three Substack Newsletters that have been in the works since we got back from Europe. Then I lay with eyes wide open feeling so much regret, that I hadn’t pushed myself harder to earn more paid subscribers. I mean if 33 people were willing to support my work financially, 330 would have too if I had just been better at sales and using social media to reach a broader audience.
I curse myself for not having no computer skills, no confidence or skills in making videos, and no one around to help me with all of that. Or maybe I didn’t look hard enough. Also, I thought that Ari would enjoy being the cameraman while his mommy makes cooking videos. Not really what every 9-year-old boy dreams about, turns out!
The anxiety over my new business kicks in when the guilt and regret retreat. ‘What the fuck am I doing? How the fuck am I going to run a food trailer without a car AND without the help of Mexicans and Central Americans!!! And at my age? Not to mention…in the cold and rain! Am I a fool?’
And then I remember the alternatives, like getting a full-time job, making 16 euros an hour at the most, and never being home for Ari. Leave him home alone or spend more than half my salary on child care? I just keep hearing Bob Cipriani’s voice (Dubick Fixture) saying, “You’re just buying a job!” Yes! Yes, I am! I applied for jobs and nobody has hired me, so yes. I am definitely buying a job! Back in Cleveland, it was by choice, this is not.
While I love the thought of being a chef and business owner again and finally having a social life, I have no choice. I have to do this. It’s all I know and it’s all I have time for. I am having my home kitchen certified for producing food for resale, so I can be home with Ari while prepping. Yes, I will be cooking, baking, chopping, slicing, and dicing, and I will be washing endless amounts of pots, pans, dishes, and containers, but I will be raising Ari myself, not paying someone else to do it.
Sadly, I have been so busy that the three-year anniversary of our arrival in Ireland passed unnoticed by me on July 21st. We must live in Ireland for 2 more years to be eligible for naturalization. I know it won’t be easy, but I can work in the food trailer for two years. We can re-evaluate our situation then. And this time, I will be able to sell my business if I choose to, because it will be 100% legitimate! And it will have a landlord who is an absolute delight to work with if the new owner wishes to remain in that location!
I talked to my website designer for 2 1/2 hours today and we’ve decided to put www.tastebudsrestaurant.com behind us but with a link to my new domain www.tastebudscork.com. Honestly, I could cry. It’s truly a sad moment. Accepting that my Cleveland restaurant is officially a thing of the past is truly heartbreaking all over again. However, it is also an enormous leap of faith forward!
Tastebuds Cork has a nice ring to it and I can’t believe it was available! I love it so much! Who knows, I may just build a brand out of it and remember its humble beginnings fondly, like, ‘Oh God, remember that tiny horsebox trailer we started in? And being so freaked out about 15k credit card debt? And transporting all the food on a trike? How the fuck did I do it?’
Well, hopefully, I’ll be saying all of those things before I know it! I’ve got a post-it note on my desk that says, “You’re Determination Will Dictate Your Success.” I’d say, I’m pretty fucking determined! And the more people caution me that Irish people don’t eat salads, the more determined I am to prove they will…if they are delicious and made with love!
Friday 4th of August 2023
WHAT A WEEK!!! OH MY!!! So many wonderful people and experiences making the pains in my legs, knees, feet, hips, back and neck seem worth it! I have said, “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you” before, but only sarcastically when someone has ripped me off or as a joke after sex, if I feel I was bribed into it with a fancy meal and expensive night out!
But this has truly been a pleasure doing business with absolutely everyone involved in opening my food trailer here in Cork. The man who showed me the trike at CityView Bikes gave me my first hint that this was going to be a beautiful experience. As Ari and I left his shop he said he’d sure like to be a part of this food trailer if I decided to go ahead with this purchase, but that he’d certainly support it whether we bought the trike from him or not.
I do feel like people genuinely want to be a part of this, but not in the way they were in America. In America, I felt like everyone was out to get me. To latch on, like leaches, and make money off of my blood. sweat and tears. It all goes back to this; no one I’ve met in Ireland is looking to make a killing, they’re just looking to make a good honest living and to enjoy life, not stuff!
My experience opening Tastebuds and then expanding into a larger space in Cleveland exposed me to enough city, county, and corporate corruption and greed to last me the rest of my life! I’m not kidding when I say “It’s been a pleasure doing business in Ireland!”
(Substack Side Note: As a matter of privacy, I used some initials rather than names in the following entries.)
Wednesday 9th of August 2023
Tonight, I truly know what love is. The love of one’s community that is. I’ve been listening to a lot of great music as I paint, prep, and work to get my trailer and my menu ready and my kitchen set up. So, when I took my first look at the work G and C did on the food trailer, Ray LaMontagne’s lyrics “Still don’t know what love is,” popped into my head and my eyes teared up thinking that those days of not knowing, are so far in the past. And that my definition of love just keeps expanding here in Ireland.
I felt loved! I felt understood! And I could see in everything they did, that they believe in me and my God that feels good! The entire neighborhood has shown me nothing but love and support! I know this party on Saturday is going to be one of the hardest days of my life (Just cuz I’m so old!), but it will have a ripple effect. Love and joy are what inspired me to have it and love and joy are what I hope my neighbors will experience.
I was freaking out about my menu being way too big yesterday and I was feeling a bit discouraged. But now, I feel inspired, confident and excited. My trailer is top-notch! Like a mini Tastebuds! OMG! I am so proud and so happy! I can’t wait to see it tomorrow because G took a bunch of paint when he dropped me off. I mentioned the red paint that I had and he really liked the idea. I have NEVER had any man like my ideas when it comes to bold color schemes! I am so excited to see if he goes through with it! He took white too so we’ll see what happens.
In other news, my Musgrave’s Marketplace order was supposed to be delivered today, 1100 euros worth of stock, my beginning inventory. At 11:30 I decided to call for an estimated time of delivery so I could go on about my day. At first, the woman couldn’t find any record of my order but said she would go and talk to someone else if I could wait on the line. When she returned a few minutes later, she said, “Ah well, with the bank holiday and all, Eoin’s a bit backed up you see, so he’ll be onto you tomorrow if that’s ok?”
Holy Shit!!! That’s a good wake-up call about what to expect in the future! Fascinating! Quintessentially Irish and I must adapt to it! Honestly, everyone is easy going and I need to be as well. If my delivery doesn’t come, I’ll just have to improvise and customers will understand. There are no Karens here asking to see the manager after declaring the situation “unacceptable!”
Also, today was the most beautiful day of the year, and the hottest it’s felt at 74’. It’s been cold and rainy since Ari and I returned from our trip and I was starting to think we missed summer! I did all the yard work myself since Ari has tonsillitis and is on antibiotics and hasn’t been sleeping well. It was therapeutic and just the break I needed from all this Tastebuds stuff!
A couple County workers were fixing a back drain behind my house. My engineer estimated the repair at 4k euros when he did the home inspection during the sale. this was free, because these were social housing when they were built and some still are, so the county is responsible for the repairs. NICE! Taxes are high in Ireland, but at least you get something for them! Like that doctor visit with Ari that was only 60 euros, as opposed to paying over $800 per month for health insurance in the States, and not having a visit like that covered.
Anyway, the workers told me that the location where my trailer is going to be permanently is about to burst with people and activities. They said in addition to the Greenway cycle path, there is a plan for a boardwalk along the Owenacurra River. This may change the direction tourists are inclined to walk when leaving the Jameson Distillery. They may head toward me, as opposed to the main street!
I am incredibly excited and honestly, I’ve just got to make it a huge success for everyone who has had a hand in its creation. And there are sooo many hands!
I’ve been limping around, cursing old age and Irish weather, my weight, and my arthritis-prone genetics for all of this pain and suffering I have been experiencing since I began working on my food trailer and testing my menu. Imagine my surprise, to learn that I had these same complaints when I started Tastebuds 22 years ago and was in pretty good shape physically!
I pulled out the old journal simply to compare what starting a business was like in Cleveland in 2001 with what it’s been like in Cork in 2023. How could I have forgotten all the misery?
I guess it’s a bit like childbirth. You are so smitten and swept away by this beautiful little thing you created, you don’t remember the excruciating pain it took to push it out into the world!
It’s pretty great to have this to look back on and I’m feeling optimistic that far less can go wrong in a tiny horse trailer than in a brick-and-mortar restaurant! Enjoy!
(Substack Side Note: Bayard was a wonderful and remarkable old man that Paul and I became friends with. Erin, Megan, Brian, Molly, Erin and Maggie are siblings, Lille is Paul’s mother and the rest of the names mentioned are friends!)
May 5th 2001
What a day! Just when I’d given up on getting help from anyone…there they were…Mom, Erin and Maggie! Molly, who saved my ass all day yesterday even came back after work today around 3:30. The other girls came at noon and everybody stayed till 1 am! That’s family for you! Thank You JESUS! 13 hours these girls gave me! It was so strange because time just flew by. We had so much fun and got so much done. At 9 pm Erin headed over to my house to print up to-go menus on my computer and hand-washing signs that are required by the health department. She did so great!
We hung my paintings and Molly and Maggie programmed the cash register. Every piece of equipment, cookware, and utensil we inherited from the Chinese bakery was coated in grease and my mom scrubbed each item. She did a lifetime of dishes and every 5 minutes she’d yell out some scenario I might face like, “Say somebody wants such and such, what are you gonna do?” or “…How are you?” or she’d offer suggestions like, “Why don’t you…?”
Maggie loved playing with the register, and it was a riot to watch her! At 1 am I served us all dinner from behind the counter, French bread pizza, salad, Pepsi, and a cookie and Maggie rang everyone up!
May 7th 2001
Running a week behind schedule. I think I’m seconds away from a breakdown. I went to bed at 10 pm tonight because I have to be at the restaurant to receive deliveries scheduled for anywhere between 6 am and 3 pm! I obviously can’t sleep. It’s nearing 11 pm. I feel ripped off, stressed out, taken advantage of, screwed over, and let down.
I’m running out of room, time, strength, and most of all, money. This is really horrible! I’m exhausted. I’m sick of fine print and hidden costs and bullshitters! Telemarketers call nonstop and people I want to call never do. I’ve been waiting for an electrician for 3 weeks now! My favorite though, is the credit card processing salesman. Fucking HELL!!! Every one of these guys had nasty breath, itched their crotch, and told really boring restaurant stories. One asshole asked if he could come back and talk to my husband! I don’t know, those are just fighting words to me!
I don’t know, I guess I’m just not used to talking to the dead, and by dead I mean, non-creative types. The people who have to pretend that they LIVE for paper products, janitorial supplies, credit card processing, or phone lines. No one takes pride in what they do or is even honest about the services they want to provide. I love it too when salesmen forget my name or misspell it or when they just so happen to misplace the paper with all their rates listed on it but say “Don’t worry, I’ve got the lowest rates, you can trust me on that!” There is a message on my answering machine, a salesman confirming our appointment at 10, but then he pauses, shuffles some papers and says, “I mean noon, oh, no sorry, I mean 3 and that’s, let me see here………um………………………Tastebuds?………..That’s right!……………………….and you’rrrrrre………………………………..Bridget! Ok, great! See you at NOON today Bridget! I mean 3. Thanks Bridget! See you at……………………..Tastebuds at 3!
Actually, I shouldn’t say they’re all bad, in fact, two have been great (which probably just means they haven’t screwed me over yet!). My food purveyor and my sign guy. In fact, they’ve been working 10-12 hour days as well. It’s reassuring to receive a fax at 8 pm from a guy you met with at 9 am.
May 8th 2001
My back, my legs, my eyes, my head, my feet, my MIND! Owning a restaurant sure is FUN! Actually, my heart and my soul are soaring, it’s just my flesh and bones that cry out in pain! Yesterday had to be one of the most emotional days of my life! Stress, joy, love, pain, terror, fun, anxiety. Did I mention stress? I felt blessed most of all though. Bayard came in and gave me a shamrock mobile he made with Irish coins, wishing me luck. Erin came in for coffee! Megan came in with the kids and helped set up tables and chairs outside where they sat eating, hoping to lure other customers for us. Brian came in and insisted on paying for his lunch! I wish he would have let me buy him lunch after all the work he did for me retiling the kitchen floor after the plumbers destroyed it! That’s a brother for you! My cousin Brendan brought in two coworkers yesterday and brought somebody else today! Crystal visited and spent a fortune! Inta and Mike sent the most beautiful flowers, and then Lille sent the biggest flower arrangement I have ever seen!
May 22nd 2001
Day 16 of the new restaurant. How far down do we have to go on this financial rollercoaster before we start to go back up? I haven’t even begun to survey the damage. I can’t write checks fast enough and my charge cards are smokin! Paperwork and bills are piling up so high on a prep table that I use for a desk. Every now and then I sit down and attempt to figure it all out but it becomes a mess, and the numbers freak me out, so I just shove what I can into a drawer and hope I find time during the weekend.
May 29th 2001
Hard to believe that I am going to bed feeling fulfilled and happy after a day that began with a urinal at the restaurant overflowing and gushing water for probably 30 minutes. The clean-up took two hours. I didn’t cry, but I came close, and as I struggled through ankle-deep water to continually fill and empty buckets while Paul searched for a way to shut off the water. He shut off every valve and still the water gushed. Finally, Nick, our fellow tenant and savior got a plumber on the phone who talked him through some process that finally worked!
Paul and I survived…again!
July 25th 2001
I posted a goal last week for sales and we came close to reaching it. This week, I don’t think we’ll have any trouble at all meeting that goal! I’m happy, I’m scared and I’ve never been involved with anything so unpredictable! I’ve been working my ass off and I moved a futon into the restaurant so that I can take a nap from 4-6 and then prep from 6-9 or 10…or even 11! I think I would live there if it weren’t for Paul and Mac.
Somehow my swollen legs, my sore back and feet, and my cut, callused and burned hands make me smile. Last night at 11 pm, I walked out into my dining room, beat to death from working so hard and so late and I jumped for joy and I gave praise to God! Thanking Him for the incredible privilege of feeding people. It feels so good to work hard for us, for Paul and me, for our future!
“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine”
“Under the shelter of each other, people survive.” -Irish Proverb
It is a very Irish tradition to look after one another and since Ari and I moved to Michael Collins Square, a block of 4 rows of 6 houses each that face inward toward a shared car park, we have felt incredibly well looked after. When my food trailer arrived a couple of months ago, I felt it even more. It had only been parked in front of my house for a few hours when a neighbor suggested I put locks on the door and hitch, even offering to pick them up at the store for me since I don’t have a car.
Prior to leaving for our trip, I went door to door informing my neighbors that they would be stuck looking at the trailer for the 3 weeks we’d be gone and then probably another 3 while I fixed it up. I was worried someone might think it was abandoned and would have it towed.
One of our generous and caring friends took us to the airport at 5 a.m., because neither of the two cab drivers in Midleton worked that early! While we were away, one of my neighbors took on the huge job of taking down part of a block wall, widening the opening to my rear garden, and pouring a concrete ramp to enable me to purchase the trike I’d been hoping to buy so I could transport goods from my kitchen to the trailer and also do all my shopping with.
On the day of our return to Cork, I couldn’t keep up with the phone calls and texts pouring in from neighbors and friends asking if we needed a lift from the airport or train station. I told everyone we were fine and wouldn’t be back to Midleton till Almost 10 pm. One neighbor wouldn’t take no for an answer and came to collect us at the train station in Cork, which was lovely because we were freezing cold coming from the upper 90-degree weather of Kosovo, to the 55-degree cold and rain of Ireland!
When we returned to our house, tired, cold, hungry, and worried we wouldn’t be able to make it to the grocery store in time, there was a sack of groceries, enough for nearly a week outside our door from a neighbor whom I had asked to take some of the contents of my fridge before we left, just a few things that would’ve gone bad, nothing that warranted a whole shopping spree of goods in return! Inside the door As I went through the mail, there was also a card waiting for us from a neighbor wishing us luck, and telling us we’ll do great with the trailer!
Before I could put all the groceries away, there was a knock at the door and the same woman who picked us up at the train station presented Ari and me with a gorgeous dinner of Lamb, Coconut Rice, Sea Spinach with Lime, Mixed Beans and Olives! She warmly welcomed us home with a bouquet of wildflowers and some non-alcoholic sparkling wine!
So, looking at these pictures, you might be able to tell, not all my neighbors are Irish! This meal was lovingly prepared by a neighbor from Morocco and her husband from Cameroon! While I do give Ireland all the credit, and often wonder if the kindness I receive is because everyone was raised Catholic, I feel it is important to mention that not everyone is Irish and not everyone is Catholic, but just about EVERYONE treats others as they wish to be treated!
I learned that these same neighbors had been working hard on my behalf to get a gifted builder who was a bit skeptical to help retrofit my trailer. They were successful and then they turned her attention to absolutely everything else that was required to get my business started and they helped me every step of the way!
Recently I threw an appreciation party (The Saturday party that I mentioned earlier in my journal) to thank all of my neighbors and a few of my friends for all their help and support with the launch of Tastebuds Cork, and well…it backfired! Yep! Instead of settling my debt of gratitude, by inviting them to be the first to sample my menu and see the trailer in operation, I ended up feeling more indebted to them!
A day after I sent Ari out around Michael Collins Square with an invitation for each of the 24 other houses, the kind phone calls and cards started to arrive. There were visits to my door as well, neighbors hand-delivering good luck and congratulations cards, some saying they wouldn’t be able to make it to the party and others saying they were looking forward to it.
Then, on the day that was meant to be a gift to them, neighbors and friends began showing up to the party with flowers, chocolates, cards, bottles of bubbly and wine! My Moroccan friend who deserved to enjoy the party the most, ended up being my sous chef in the kitchen before the party, my hostess and manager during it, and my dishwasher after! And she wouldn’t stop, even when I couldn’t go on!
The thoughtful gestures continued for days both in person and on social media from all who attended, just leaving me feeling so undeservedly loved and cared for! All I can do is hope to make it up to them someday!
The morning after the party, I woke Ari up early and said we had to go to church to say thank you to God for all of these wonderful people in our lives. He rolled away from me, pulled his covers back up and said, “Can’t we just say a prayer and thank Him?” I said, “No, this is far too great! We’ve got to go thank The Man in person!” Ari thought about it for a bit, and then miraculously got up and dressed without a fight!
The priest delivered a great homily in which he talked about the devastation happening all over the world, in particular the wildfires that rampaged Maui, and the question he gets asked the most: “How can God let this happen?”
He answered that these disasters are the result of mankind abusing the planet and neglecting the warnings of climate change. That death and destruction are not caused by the hand of God. No, the hand of God is guiding the rescue or recovery efforts and working through the relief workers.”
He went on to say, “God isn’t plotting your demise or putting obstacles in your way, the hand of God more often than not, is disguised as a neighbor helping you in your time of need.”
Ari and I grinned at each other and understood at that moment, that God knew we were coming and had something we needed to hear!
Later that day, when my Moroccan friend came to the door, Ari yelled, “Mom! The Hand of God is here! And, she was and she knew just what we needed! She took us to the sea where she instructed us to throw all of our stress and worries into the water and let the salty air cleanse our minds and heal our bodies! And it almost worked!!!
Thank You For Being Here With Me My Friends!