St. Patrick’s Day recipes
Wishing you a rainbow for sunlight after showers
Miles and miles of Irish smiles for golden happy hours
Shamrocks at your doorway for luck and laughter, too
And a host of friends that never ends each day your whole life through
~Traditional Irish Blessing
They say there are only 2 kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were.
Here’s some shocking news: St Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was from Britain and his name was Maewyn Succat (Mah-wyn Suh-coo) As a 16 year old boy, Maewyn was kidnapped by Irish marauders and forced into slavery for 6 years. It was during this time that he had his first vision, telling him to escape and head back to Britain. His second vision told him to head back to Ireland and save those poor Irish from themselves and convert them all to Christianity. Maewyn took on the Christian name of Patrick and got to work.
I’m afraid there are more St. Patrick myths that need to be busted. You’ve heard about St Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland? Well, there were no snakes in Ireland. Historians believe the snakes are a metaphor for Paganism. And Shamrocks aren’t particularly lucky. It’s thought that St Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity.
So where does all the St Paddy’s Day fun come in? St Patrick died March 17th 461 AD which explains the modern day celebration date. The partying comes from the fact that St Patrick’s day falls in Lent, so the Irish got a one day reprieve from all the sacrifices of Lent when they could eat, drink and be merry. Needless to say, the holiday took off. Celebrating St Patrick’s day in the U.S. dates back to 1762- the year of the 1st St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York. The parade remains America’s largest St Paddy’s celebration.
The wearing of the Green should really be the wearing of the Blue because blue was the actual color associate to St Patrick. Green is an American spin- it came from knowing Ireland as the emerald isle and all it’s green landscape – and also from the shamrock, which people would wear in their lapel on St. Patrick’s day.
Corned beef and cabbage is an American thing, too. Well, actually and Irish- American thing. In Ireland the dish was boiled bacon and potatoes. But poor Irish immigrants discovered they could buy a cheap brisket and season it up to make a pretty delicious dish.
When you think of Irish food, its hard not to think about the potato famine. In the 1840’s, the potato crop, which was one of the staples of the peasant population, failed. The death toll was huge and “cuisine” and “Irish” were rarely used in the same sentence anymore. But for thousands of years, way before Ireland’s dreadful potato famine, the country had amazing cuisine. They dined on red deer and wild pig, salmon, trout and duck. And because of the mild climate, farmers grew wheat, barley, oats and rye. They had grazing cows, sheep and goats which of course gave them wonderful cheeses. And their hospitality matched their abundance. If you were traveling across the country in the middle ages, you would be welcomed with food and drink at every farm you passed.
The problem was, the lowly potato became more than just a common food. Because it was cheap and easy to grow, it supplied the bulk of the nutrition to the peasant class. Any farmer could sustain his family just on his potato crop and that became a force behind a population explosion. But then a fungus infected several crops in a row and there was widespread starvation and death. It effected not just the population of Ireland, but also their attitude toward food. They just didn’t talk about it. If they did any fine dining they copied French food. Irish food was pretty well dropped.
But before you think this story doesn’t have a happy ending, in comes Myrtle Allen. Myrtle turned her home into a restaurant in 1964 and Ballymaloe didn’t serve French food. Myrtle served simple Irish food made from local ingredients, like scallops and oysters, beef and lamb, ducks and geese served with watercress, carrot and cucumber. And this began a new confidence about Irish cuisine and the foods the Irish could produce and cook themselves. Ms. Allen is still a force in Irish food, so are her heirs. Her restaurant still thrives, her daughter-in-law, Darina, runs a world-renowned cooking school just a few miles away, and her granddaughter, Rachel, has become a cooking star on TV.
Home cooking in Ireland still means traditional dishes like roast leg of lamb served with mashed carrots and parsnips. And, just like us, the Irish are concentrating on simple ingredients and shopping at farmers’ markets.
Try this recipe from Ballymaloe Cooking School for Warm Walnut Whiskey and Sultana Cake with Mango and Mascarpone (A sultana is a golden raisin)
Here are more St. Patrick’s Day recipes you might like:
to you by Amy Tobin
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