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St. Patrick's Day Food...and it's gluten-free!

Posted by: valeriefender on March 4, 2010


Everyone seems to suddenly become Irish during the month of March, ever noticed that? There are green clovers and "Luck 'O the Irish" t-shirts everywhere. As with most holidays, the food is always a huge focus. What do you think of when you think of Irish food fair? If you are like me, your idea of foods that are traditionally Irish, are wrong. Boy, did I do some learning this week in my search for traditional Irish foods!

What is your first thought when you think of Irish Soda Bread? A round loaf with an "X" cut in the top that is packed full of raisins, orange zest or even Irish Whiskey? Guess what, that is not "traditional". Traditional Irish Soda Bread, from what I've learned in my reading, is a very plain bread, no fruit, no spice. Simple, flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. That's it! Remember, this was a bread that was born out of poverty. Sugar and fruit would have been a luxury.

I may be wrong, but the bread that we traditionally feel is Soda Bread is a tradition of Irish cooks, but not called Irish Soda Bread. It is actually called, "Spotted Dog" or "Railway Cake". Are you shocked? This bread is not even really a bread, but a cake because of the addition of eggs, sugar and fruit. All wonderful additions, but not soda bread.

Another famous dish is Corned Beef and Cabbage. As a kid, this was one of my least favorite dishes. It seemed like we had it every week for years. My parents assure me that we didn't have it quite that often, but it sure did feel like it to me. It was never a purely "St. Patrick's Day" dish, but an inexpensive favorite of my dad's.

How traditional is this favorite dish of many? Not very, I have found. While it is eaten in Ireland, it is not a common dish and is most certainly not the "national dish" as many North American's may think. Shocking! I found that beef was not even a major protein for the Irish until the last century or so. Pork was more common. While cows were raised in Ireland, they were raised for milk and only butchered when they had stopped being productive in that capacity.

Enough history for you? So many interesting facts to read about and learn, but we are really here to talk about the food, right? When I started really looking into the "traditional" dishes of Ireland I decided that I could live there and eat happily. Call me crazy, but their down home, country type foods really sound inviting. This is real home cooking, if I have ever heard of any.

One dish that really sounded delicious was called, Boxty. Ever heard of it? I hadn't but I would be willing to bet that most of you have eaten it, or a version of it. Care to take a guess at what it is? I'll give you a hint...potato...still not sure? Boxty is an Irish version of a potato pancake. I think their name is much more fun than potato pancake, however.

As if that wasn't enough to make you hungry, another traditional dish that came up in just about every search I did on true Irish foods was Colcannon. Sounds strange, the name means "white-headed cabbage" and usually contains mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, butter, salt and pepper. Other variations of this dish have milk, cream, leeks, onions, chives, garlic, Irish bacon or boiled ham. Sounds yummy to me! I bet it would be really good with an Irish cheese or even cheddar cheese mixed in. That would not be traditional, however.

There are so many tasty and "traditional" Irish foods that we can explore and enjoy during this season of feeling Irish. So many tasty food options have come up in my searches and I am more than happy to share them with you! I'll post a couple more posts about Irish foods, both traditional and not so much, but foods that we all associate with St. Patrick's Day. Get brave, try a few and let the simple flavors of Ireland take your taste buds on a trip to this beautiful country. Find yourself a good gluten-free beer or cider to enjoy with them and pretend for that day that you are Irish!

Comments on This Post:

  • Marissa
    March 4, 2010

    Great Post Valerie! Thanks for the information :) I do have a fair amount of Irish blood, enough to give me freckles, fair skin and reddish hair anyway-and you are so right, I am never so Irish as I am in March.

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