Cabin Hospitality

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (4) | Start of Chapter

Fearing I had gone astray, I made my way to a cabin door through mud and filth; here a woman pointed me to the house of the great man, and added, "May-be ye are wairy, and would like to sit down a bit." I gladly accepted the invitation, and followed my guide into the small cabin. Here were two men sitting upon a table in a corner, an old man smoking, and a wretched-looking woman, who like me was weary with her journey, and had "turned in hither," and was sitting upon the ground. In the centre of the room stood the dinner table, with the remains of the potatoes on which the family had been dining. A tub of potato-skins and water stood near the table, from which two huge matronly swine, and eleven young sucklings, were eating their dinner, and I, in return for the civility shown me, could do no less than extol the beauty of the little bonnels, and the fine bulk of the mother. The mistress took a wooden bowl, mashed a few fine potatoes into it with her hands, and, adding milk, called a couple of more favored ones, and fed them from it. Upon a cupboard stood a plate of tempting well-cooked potatoes, and I asked leave to take one. This was the signal for a fresh effusion of kindness, and the good woman left her pets to their own guidance, and selected with her hands one one of the finest, divested it of its coat with her nails, and handed it to me. I was caught in my own trap, and was obliged to surrender; and before the first was masticated, a second was in readiness, and so on, till I was positively obliged to refuse the fourth, much to the grief of the good woman, who was "in dread" lest I should go away hungry.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.