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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Did Your Ancestors Eat Corned Beef?

Now, I love corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.  I used to request it as my birthday dinner when I was a kid.  How could I not?  After all, my family is Irish.  Let's not forget to mention the next day leftovers on a Rueben.  No pastrami for me as I like my Rueben sandwich with corned beef.

So, how Irish do you think corned beef is?  Many think St. Patrick's Day and corned beef with cabbage as synonymous in the USA.  Let's not forget to add that "Black and Tan" to drink with the meal followed by a little "Irish Coffee".  Well, I hate to break the news to those not in "the know", the food and beverages that I've mentioned above are not consumed or offered in Ireland.  In fact, they may think you're a bit crazy if you ask for them there.

I must set out here to distinguish food in Ireland from Irish immigrant food in the United States.  If you seek corned beef and cabbage in Ireland, you'd be so hard pressed to find it.   I don't even think they make corned beef in Ireland.  I won't go so far as to say they don't have cabbage in Ireland as I don't know that for a fact.

As for beverages, you'd probably find that many a bartender in Ireland would never ever mix beer and Guinness to provide a "Black and Tan".  Let's not forget that in the United States that Bass is generally mixed with Guinness to create a "Black and Tan".  I do think that most Irish in Ireland would probably say that at least you could use Harp.   But why in the world would you put beer in your Guinness?

The legend of the Irish coffee also sends many people into a great Irish debate over the origins.  Well, my best story about this beverage is that it was invented in San Francisco, California, at the Buena Vista.  Let's just back up a bit.  San Francisco is no where near Ireland.  Can the Buena Vista claim fame to this invention?  Maybe with a little help from a traveler from the Shannon Airport in Ireland.

So what do the Irish eat in Ireland?  When I toured Ireland in 2004 and visited relatives on their farm, I found very little in the way of variety in cuisine.  I do know that has changed some in recent years but let me talk about what the Irish do eat in Ireland.  They like to eat their traditional Irish breakfast, their main meal at lunch, and a light dinner.  They also like their tea.

I found that the traditional Irish breakfast was very much to my liking.  It consists of bangers (sausage), rashers (bacon), black pudding (known as blood pudding that is a sausage), and white pudding (sausage that contains oats), beans (pintos in sauce), eggs, potatoes, and brown bread.  Let me not forget about the hot roasted small whole tomato on the plate.  It found it to be quite satisfying myself.  I could eat that everyday if I had too.  I would want some fruit with my breakfast though.

Carvery was a favorite find in Ireland.  This mid-day meal consisted of a buffet of sorts.  You walk through the line once and pick one of 3 meats that they carve directly off the bone in front of you and deliver it nicely on your plate.  Next you walk the line and serve yourself 2 types of prepared potatoes, collard greens, chopped carrots and parsnips mix, and brown bread.  I found this meal to be quite the comfort food.

In the afternoon or evening there might be some tea, homemade brown bread, a tomato and homemade ham (bacon).  This meat product reminds me of bologna or other lunch meat.  You can always top off the light dinner meal with a little Mountain Dew.  That's not the soft drink in the USA.  It is moonshine and referred to as Potcheen (Poochee) in Ireland.  I found it almost startling when the choir group at Bunratty Castle started singing about Mountain Dew on my trip in 2004.  I laughed because they were literally singing about Irish moonshine.

Despite the selection of Irish ales, lager, and stout at the local pubs, many Irish were drinking Bud.  I almost could not believe they'd prefer Budweiser over their local drinks.  Bud is not something I drink.  Normally, I'm not big on beer.  I did find one of my all time favorite drinks in Ireland.  Hard Cider made by Bulmers was a wonderful replacement to my daily glass of red wine.  A local bartender in Kenmare called it lunatic juice.  He indicated that it is known to be consumed by those with a next day hangover.

I almost could not believe all of the bagel sandwich shops in Dublin when we were there.  Maybe we kept walking past the same one during our walks through the city.  It reminded me of Noah's Bagels back home in the USA.  I guess that was the fad of the time.

Some of my favorite food in Ireland was the fish and chips, and Irish stew.  My husband and I also found wine pretty much everywhere we went, some of which was from California.  While I do love Irish soda bread, I did not have any on our trip.

I did realize early on that you really should stick with the Irish cuisine for the most part and not try to have something from home (California) in Dublin.  I ordered a wrap at the Mespil Hotel bar.  It has meat, grilled onions and avocado in it.  The avocado was rubber and tasteless.  The onions were pickled.  It was pretty disgusting.  I was disappointed to say the least and wanted to hop back in the kitchen and give them some pointers.  I didn't and decided after that not to try eat California cuisine in Ireland.

The final night that I spent in Ireland included eating at an Italian cafe that served beef with some pasta and had a cheese plate with grapes.  The best of the best was the cheese on that plate.  It was Guinness cheddar.   It was this amazing cheddar with veins of dark stout running throughout it.  Incredible!

As you can probably figure out, Irish food may not be what you'd expect.  While it certainly is not the Mediterramean diet that we should probably all be eating, it is comfort food.  As tribute to my Irish immigrant relatives, I shall enjoy my corned beef and cabbage along with some Irish soda bread tonight.  Can't wait for the leftovers tomorrow on the actual day itself plus a rueben the day after.  Yum!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!   

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