France has snails, London has bubble and squeak, Scotland has haggis, Holland has cheese, Germany has frankfurters, Itialy has pasta, Dublin has coddle but Limerick has packet and tripe. Or had. It is a dish little eaten in these affulent days, McDonalds and Burger King have triumphed over a dish that was a staple food for many a Limerick family up to about 30 years ago. It was the McDonalds of its day.
It was a dish that transcend class barriers, rich or poor, it was eaten with relish by all.
To the exiles over a certain age, the mere mention of packet and tripe was enough to bring a wistful longing to the eyes and palate of most exiled Limerick men in lands far away.
The “shop factories” where the packet and tripe was bought were in the oldest part of the city…Kings Island.
There was the Barrett family in the “sandmall” they were renowned for their packet and tripe in the early part of the last centuary, but the most famous and, the only one I remember, and the last to go, was Treacys.
Tracys was a cottage on a street called Courthouse lane, off the sandmall. A latched door gave way to a stone flagged room, whitewashed and divided by a counter. Large buckets held the packet and tripe.
Tripe is sheeps belly and is very much an aquired taste. The nuns in the local St. Marys convent had Treacys scrape (prepared) a special belly for Sunday and a “well-in” Treacys customer might, on a rare ocasion, and as a great favour, get a piece of the much coveted “nuns belly”.
Treacys were the original owners but it was later run by Jim “packet” O’Halloran, who is credited with the immortal words: “Its 3 o clock, and not a belly in the house scraped yet”.
A time honoured way of cooking tripe is to chop in into small cubes and steep in water overnight. Then, cooked in water, its cooked again a second time in milk with onions and breadcrumbs and the packet added with a knob of butter.
Jim Kemmy, a local historan and scholar, wrote about packet and tripe:” Packet and tripe, washed down with strong sweet tea has been found to be easily digestable and rests gently on the stomach, especially one ravaged by an excess of alcohol. For this reason the dish is very much in demand after a weekend “feed of porter” has rendered the stomach hostile to other forms of nourishment Packet and tripe is reputed to give a “lining” to the stomach so the dish has been traditionally been a weekend treat, a distintive Saturday night/Sunday morning ritual.”
Packet is a blood sausage,or pudding and dark in colour. Sheeps’ blood is poured into a skin taken from the intestine of the sheep, with spices and chopped onion added and boiled in a vat. Thereafter boiled again in milk with the packet and breadcrumbs.
Packet and tripe no longer comes from Limerick but is brought from Cork a few times a week and a small number of butchers sell it to an older and older customer base as each year passes. The younger generation would never eat the dish, prefering instead to eat “fast food” with ingredience that is made from god knows what.
But packet and tripe was an honest food, it was an “in your face” what you saw was what you got. And for a hundred years and long before, it helped to make life a bit more bearable in poverty stricken streets and lanes of the city in long gone days.
A little addendum. a sideline of Jim “packet” O’Halloran was that he used to sell an oil, derived from “trotters” (sheeps feet) as a hair restorative -Im not kidding. It is MOST unlikely that this oil was effective in restoring hair,but he did a roaring trade, and as a Kings Island wit remarked,”It might not work, but it does makes colourful patterns on the pillow.