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A Really Good Sandwich in Mullingar

Sometimes it’s the simple, unplanned things that leave an impression, like the lunch my father and I had in Mullingar, Ireland. It wasn’t a planned stop. We had no list of things to see or places to eat or have a pint. We were simply on our way from Galway to Belfast and in need of food and Mullingar was in the right place at the right time. Google kept telling me to stick to the motorway but I wasn’t anxious to meet the M50 circling Dublin again. Instead I look a more leisurely route, abandoning the M6 at Athlone, meandering up to Dundalk before connecting with the A1 on to Belfast.

We pulled into town and went on foot in search of food. After passing a few options Dad gestured towards a tiny, hole in the wall café. “How about here?” It didn’t look promising, but my stomach didn’t want to keep walking so in we went. It was small, maybe ten feet wide. Compact counter-high tables hugged the walls, which were covered in an assortment of photos and local news clippings. There didn’t seem to be a menu and the counter where you ordered was actually just a large cooler with a sliding top. “Um, do you have sandwiches?” we asked the woman working. Indeed she did. We watched while she piled sliced turkey (no deli meat here) high on a thick slice of bread. “Bacon?” “Sure, why not,” I replied thinking we’d get a slice or two. At least five or six slices were added to each sandwich.

Dad and I sat in comfortable silence, enjoying those sandwiches with a big cup of tea. Is Mullingar the Texas of Ireland? Is everything bigger there? It was the kind of lunch your mother or grandmother might make you and it came with a similar comforting feeling. Nothing pretentious. It wasn’t trying to be something grander than it was. It was just a simple, homemade sandwich, and it was good. It was also cheap. We were shocked when we went to pay and were told “Oh, um.. €8 is good.” Really? €4 each? Just a few days before I’d paid more for a thin, squat deli ham sandwich in a tourist rest stop on the Ring of Kerry.

I don’t know the name of it, didn’t take any photos and probably couldn’t find it again, but that unassuming café brightened our day just a little. We needed something to, after slogging it out through days of getting lost in the fog. Even though it wasn’t gourmet or expensive, Dad and I would randomly comment on that lunch for some time after. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the simple things.

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