Did you know that there are 34.7 million U.S. residents with Irish ancestry - more than seven times the population of Ireland itself? This Saturday, March 17, Irish Americans, Irish immigrants and those who may claim to have a wee bit of Irish heritage or just want to be Irish for a day will be celebrating while downing Guinness Stout and dining on traditional Irish fare, the most popular being Corned Beef and Cabbage.
Though cabbage has long been an Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick's Day at the turn of the century. Bacon and Cabbage was the original Irish dish that eventually evolved into corned beef and cabbage. In Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. Irish immigrants living on New York City’s Lower East Side substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money. They learned about the cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.
In addition to Corned Beef and Cabbage, traditional Irish dishes include Irish Soda Bread, Colcannon (potatoes, cabbage and wild garlic), Irish Brown Bread, Champ (mashed potatoes with chopped scallions), Shepherd’s Pie and Boxty, a type of potato pancake. For a modern interpretation of the traditional Irish stew, try this recipe for Beef and Guinness Stew.
While seafood has always been consumed by Irish people, shellfish dishes have increased in popularity in recent times, especially due to the high quality of shellfish available from Ireland's coastline, e.g. Dublin Bay Prawns and oysters, which are often served with Guinness, as well as other crustaceans. A good example of an Irish dish for shellfish is Dublin Lawyer - lobster cooked in whiskey and cream. Fish most commonly consumed are salmon and cod.
When raising your glass on St. Patrick’s Day with Slaínte, you might say this toast to your family and friends - “May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent.”
And, remember this old Irish recipe for longevity:
Leave the table hungry.
Leave the bed sleepy.
Leave the bar thirsty.