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The Long Whey-Hey Home

The world’s largest and noisiest family reunion gets under way

Author Jon Marcus

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ILLUSTRATION BY PETER OUMANSKI

LIMERICK, IRELAND—Kathleen Fox could have sworn she heard her late father in the voices of her newfound Irish relatives, who’d advised her that the pub in which they planned to hold their family reunion would likely be knees-up. “I remember my dad saying that with the same brogue,” Fox says, referring to the local vernacular for very crowded.

The pub, in Newcastle West in County Limerick, was indeed knees-up that night. And when everyone in it started to sing, Fox recalled her dad doing the same at weddings and other happy occasions.

Fox, whose parents left Ireland in the 1950s and settled in Erie, Pa., is planning another trip overseas in the coming months, making her one of 325,000 people of Irish descent slated to make homecomings this year for “The Gathering”—a campaign launched by the tourism board here to coincide with the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit to his family’s hometown in Wexford.

Ireland has a population of nearly 6.5 million, but there are about 70 million people worldwide of Irish ancestry. More than half live in the U.S., including Fox and her seven brothers and sisters.

“People in Ireland love to get together,” says campaign project director Jim Miley. “The Gathering gives us all a great excuse.” Not everyone is so enthusiastic, however: Irish-American actor Gabriel Byrne has publicly suggested that the visitors are simply being “shaken down” for a much-needed infusion of cash.

Fox doesn’t see it that way. Her Irish relatives, she says, insisted she stay in their homes. “It’s all about greeting people and enjoying life. That’s what our parents were like too. They’re here with us in spirit.”

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COUP DE GRAS
The tale of the bus station, the tall stranger and the mysterious package

TIJUANA, MEXICO—While ants, grasshoppers and armadillos all have their place in Mexican cuisine, snails have been slow to move from the garden to the plate. So chef Ryan Steyn was taking a risk when he opened Bistrot l’Escargot in Tijuana in 2011. Today, he’s taking another one.

Steyn is at the bus station, awaiting a delivery from Guadalajara: a cooler of high-grade foie gras. He had a hard time finding a local source for the stuff, but thinks it’ll be easier getting people to eat it; after all, his escargot, with a little chipotle thrown in, has been a hit. “You’ve got to give people something their taste buds can understand,” he says.

A more immediate challenge: wresting the cooler away from the bus driver, who is suspicious about its traveling unattended in the luggage compartment of his vehicle. Finally, after a spirited debate, Steyn retrieves his prize and heads back to his bistro, which will have a new item on the menu tonight. —REBEKAH SAGER

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