Erin Go to the Potluck

For the next Slow Food Seacoast potluck and meeting, on Sunday, March 4th, we’ll be exploring flavors of the Emerald Isle. This theme was chosen in honor of the approaching St. Patrick’s Day, as well as the strong influence of Irish culture brought to New England over its entire history.

For many, the phrase ‘Irish food’ conjures a bad reputation for blandness and monotony. Certainly, for many decades, the potato monoculture, poverty, and privation determined much of the national diet, a fact which contributed to the idea that Irish food was not rich or varied.

Here in the United States, many of us are familiar with the supposed classic Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage – but that’s really an Irish-American dish, a variant on a traditional bacon and cabbage mixture. It seems that immigrants to the United States could not find the fatty, salt-cured, thick-sliced bacon of the old country, and substituted the corned beef found at Jewish butcher shops in East Coast cities. This new combination became the basis for the New England boiled dinner.

But Irish food is not all potatoes and cabbage. There are some wonderful things to be found if one looks more deeply into the culture and its food history.

To allay any fears of a table full of soda bread and Guinness (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), here’s a look at some Irish food history and recipe sites, which may inspire you to explore a food culture shaped by history and economics, grassy dairylands, rocky soil, the produce of a cool moist climate, and abundant fish from the oceans.

  • Wikipedia gives an overview of Irish Cuisine from its earliest history (venison stew and mead) to the arrival of the potato in the 1600s to the ‘New Irish Cuisine’ of the 20th century, based on seafoods and cheeses.
  • Irish Culture & Customs has an exceptionally long list of recipes and a collection of articles on specific food topics.
  • DoChara’s History of Food in Ireland does a similar overview in greater depth, and also offers a small collection of recipes.
  • Ireland’s Eye offers a set of traditional recipes featuring ham, oats, jams, and other classic ingredients.
  • FoodIreland has some excellent recipes for baked goods and meat dishes, many featuring brand-name ingredients commercially available in Ireland.With all this variety, we should have plenty to explore. Please plan to come — and bring friends. Slainte!