What’s in a Name?
by Bridget McGinty
I was never one to ask your last name and I’d hardly ever tell you mine. McGinty was a tough name to live up to, and an impossible name to escape from. I was the second oldest of six children, sandwiched between a perfect older sister Megan, and an all-American athlete brother Brian, followed by Molly, Erin and Maggie.
Megan and I shared a bedroom and a dresser growing up and it was covered in medals and trophies, mostly from Irish dance, some from sports and academics, but all hers. Had they given awards for best come backs toward teachers, most creative hair styles or most disruptive in class, perhaps I would have had some brass to show off as well.
Brian’s dresser was much the same, but strictly sports trophies, plaques, medals and team pictures. People who knew my siblings and my parents expected great things from me and were often disappointed.
Getting in trouble was easier with a name like McGinty, everyone knew someone in my family and would be more than happy to provide a detailed report of my deviant activities, from smoking and drinking, to shop lifting and cutting school.
The only real interest I had back then was in busting out on my own. The thing I wanted most as a child was to be eighteen! As I suspected, that’s when my life really began making sense.
Living by my own rules, I found my people and I found my passion, and it all revolved around food! As happy as I was in the restaurant business, I still heard the call of the wild, to bust out on my own.
I had to do it my way, and for the last eighteen years, with the help of many family members and friends, I’ve had the privilege to do just that! Tastebuds Restaurant in Cleveland’s Downtown/Chinatown neighborhood opened on my thirtieth birthday and has been cranking out tastier, healthier, faster lunches Monday through Friday, 11am until 2pm ever since.
My younger sister, Erin McGinty-Perk, has been with me as a silent partner, helping to develop and grow the business since its inception in 2001. In fact, it was Erin who named Tastebuds after a restaurant in Newport Ireland that we nearly crashed into after renting a car and driving for the first time in Ireland in 1997, back when we were young and naïve enough to think almost crashing was hilarious!
As I prepare to ascend to my new career as writer and pursue my dream of moving to Ireland, I will be stepping back, behind the scenes. Erin will be taking the spotlight and center stage and I have the utmost confidence that Tastebuds will thrive under her leadership! Erin loves providing exceptional service and has made extraordinary hospitality her passion!
My passion has not changed, except that I wish to write about my experience in the restaurant business and trust me, none of it is dull or boring. It would be impossible to give these stories their proper telling if I didn’t step away. Remembering Tastebuds fondly, and missing Cleveland terribly will give me clarity, help me to write and will give me that “abiding sense of tragedy” that will sustain me “through temporary periods of joy” that Yeats spoke of!
It is the call of the Wild Atlantic Way that I’ve been hearing, a a whisper at first, then louder with each passing year. The first time I heard it, I was twenty-seven years old, smoking a cigarette on a boardwalk in Cobh, Ireland. I was standing near the last port of call of the Titanic, just after viewing the exhibit.
I was crying, imagining how the sadness of leaving home, leaving Ireland must have turned toward anticipation and excitement of coming to America and then absolute horror when the Titanic began to sink. A man approached me asking to bum a fag. He noticed my tears and asked in a thick Irish brogue what I was thinking about.
I told him I was thinking mostly about the brave young women of Ireland that left unaccompanied, unaware and unsure what was waiting for them in America. After a long silence, both of us smoking, contemplating the water, he said “Ah, so you’re a Yank then?”
I nodded the guilty apologetic yes that feels like confession when speaking to a native, and he told me that long ago, one of my ancestors had made a terrible mistake and it was up to me to make things right again. He said I need to be brave and board a big ship and sail back to Ireland for good next time! As he walked away, he turned laughing and said, “Just please Miss, if you do… mind the icebergs!”
I laughed and didn’t give that conversation another thought until recently. It’s funny, words like that seem to swirl around the subconscious like pixie dust waiting for you to believe in their magic.
When I was nineteen years old a generous and kind restaurateur, John Minillo, whom I worked for at Ninth Street Grill in the Galleria, told me I would own a restaurant someday. That thought was just as absurd to me at 19 years old, as moving to Ireland was at 27!
The birth of my son Ari five years ago inspired me to get serious about moving to Ireland. Ari spent his first Christmas there, clapping along to live music in the pubs and singing to sheep from the car window as we drove from town to town, castle to abbey.
We boarded the Christmas train and visited Santa at The Westport House. We rode the merry go round, did our shopping and drank hot cocoa at the Christmas Market in Galway. The spell was cast, and I returned the following May for The Literary Festival of Food and Wine at the famed Ballymaloe School of Cookery, where I met Darina Allen and her generous and welcoming family. Again, and this time in Cork, I found my people, I found my passion, and it all revolved around food, and this time, it included writing.
My whole life, I’ve been fighting for my independence, wanting desperately to express myself, and have people bust through my rugged nature to see the beauty inside. Is that not the embodiment of Ireland? Here I am, being called to Cork, the Rebel City! And for the first time in my life I see my last name as an asset.
I long to hear “Now, which McGinty are you?”, to which I will proudly answer, “I am the McGinty that’s bringing her name back to Ireland, hoping to serve her well, hoping she will allow me to call her home after all these years away.”