Irish cooking reflects the temperament
of the people. The Irish are a lyric group, so poetic by nature that they have a saying: 'Never harm a poet, never love a poet, and never
be a poet." The Irish have given us the finest poets and writers,
and their instinct toward the music inherent in language spices their
With meager resources for the kitchen,
Irish cooking is based on simple, but hearty dishes. Irish cooking is
poetic cooking, however, and a simple dish of potatoes and cabbage is
lifted from the ordinary by calling it 'bubble and squeak' after the
music heard in the pan. When fair Molly Malone sells her cockles and
mussels, she doesn't shout that the mussels are fresh, she sings out
that they are 'alive, alive-o.' There are even rhymes based on Irish
food, such as the potato pancake, called Boxty: "Boxty on the griddle, Boxty in the pan, If you don't eat your boxty, You'll never get your man."
In Irish mythology we find legends that inform us of the native foods. There is the legend of the Nine Sacred Hazels. Near the river Shannon was a copse where the nuts of knowledge grew. Some say this was the source of the Shannon. There is also the legend of Fionn Mac Cumhail, leader of the Fianna and one of the most honored characters in Irish legend. It was he who first tasted the Salmon of Knowledge, giving him all wisdom.
Ireland and the Potato
As for the potato, it must be remembered that the potato was first cultivated in the Andes and was a gift from the New World to the old. The Irish were among the first to cultivate it. Being a plentiful source of food for the poor, the Irish population grew after the potato was cultivated.
Then came the Potato Famine, The Great Hunger. It wasn't the potato's fault. The hardworking spud did the best it
could, proudly filling plates all over Ireland, fighting one blight
after another over the years. But in 1845, it tired of the struggle,
and the proud potato succumbed. The crops were destroyed, the human
population was decimated by starvation and emigration, and the Emerald
Isle lost its gleam. Much of that gleam found its way across the Atlantic to America.
How to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day
Start St. Patrick's day over a hearty
(click for Irish breakfast) then plan for tea with scones and a
fine word or two from a poem by Yeats or the lyric prose of Joyce, and
finish the day with a meal of homemade bread, a stew, and, of course,
a potato dish. Top off the meal with a warming Irish whiskey.
We offer you some recipes to make
a meal, a traditional Irish rhyme to sing when the last pint of
ale has been drained. This rhyme is dedicated to the comfort food of
all comfort foods, the potato, made into a dish called colcannon. Finally are the words of the poet, reminding us to sing of "Irishry," and the words of words sending us to enjoy life, these from a master of prose.
And remember one thing - if you
speak with a brogue, whatever you say will be a poem. Listen to a song of Ireland, this from Edna O'Brien in her book, Mother Ireland: "It is true that a country encapsulates our childhood and those lanes, byres, fields, flowers, insects, suns, moons and stars are forever re-occurring and tantalizing me with a possibility of a golden key which would lead beyond birth to the roots of one's lineage. Irish? In truth I would not want to be anything else."
Happy St. Patrick's
And what about leprechauns, faeries and the banshee? click here for definitive proof of these Irish imps