Irish delights – And how the potato shaped the country

When speaking about Irish food the first thing that will come on your mind is certainly fish and chips. Well you will get it everywhere in Ireland indeed. In Irish they call it iasc agus sceallóga and they serve it in a similar way like in England on paper and with a huge portion of vinegar in it. If you take a closer look at Ireland’s history it’s obvious that this country has been influenced by its bigger neighbor in many fields and the cuisine is no exception. Eggs and bacon with baked beans is also a usual breakfast for Irish people. But there’s much more than this.

Sea food and oysters

And do you know what I really like about Ireland and especially about Dublin? In this country you can go in any pub like the famous Temple Bar in Dublin at any time every day and you will get food which is traditional and typical for the country. I remember many travel destinations where you could get pizza, kebab or Chinese food almost everywhere but hardly find the real delights that your guide book recommends you. I must admit that in Ireland it’s easier especially when you go to the area around the famous Temple Bar where you will find one pub next to the other. About the Temple Bar I’m going to tell in one of my following articles. The Guinness beer and its history you will already know from my previous article. But in Ireland it’s usual to have a pint of Guinness with oysters or sea food. You remember that I told you that even the Guinness Storehouse itself regularly organizes an Oyster Festival in Galway every summer. Being close to the sea fish and sea food always played a very important role in the Irish cuisine. Even more than it did in England and the British islands. However I must disappoint you as sea food and especially oysters are not very cheap in the pub.  By the way if you are planning to stay longer in Dublin just to go to the pub every evening I just give you my advice to prepare a bigger budget for your trip as the prices are similar like in the Scandinavian countries. For those of you coming from Italy, Spain or Portugal the combination of sea food might Sound a little bit strange. In Spain you eat a traditional paella with a glass of Rioja wine. In Portugal where I will probably be soon you drink the famous wine from Porto while in Italy you chose chianti. But people from Mediterranean countries coming to Ireland often wonder how on earth the Irish can drink Guinness beer while eating sea food. Well, that’s why I created this blog to introduce some cultural differences from all over the world to you.

The story behind the Irish coffee

A drink that you will certainly know maybe even from your own country is Irish coffee. And indeed it’s coffee served with whiskey and some whipped cream. By the way the word whiskey comes from the Irish word uisce which simply means water. The correct Irish name is uisce bheatha which means water of life. That’s why the French adapted the name and started to call it eau de vie. But let’s get back to the Irish coffee and let’s take a closer look at its story. It started namely at Shannon Airport on a misty and clody day when suddenly several flights delayed due to bad wheather conditions. It was a barkeeper who tried to cheer up the annoyed passengers waiting for their flight. He did it offering them coffee with some water of life in it. What he didn’t know is that he has invented the most popular drink of Ireland along with the famous Guinness beer.

Dublin 2018 036

If you go to Ireland you need to drink at least one Irish coffee after your dinner. And it helps indeed to come over the cold and fresh wheather in Ireland. By the way Ireland is not that rainy as clichés and stereotypes always suppose. I have to tell you that in Nice at the French Côte d’Azur statistically it rains more often than in Dublin. But anyway you see how creative Irish people can be although living in a place where the wheather conditions and the nature didn’t offer as many delights as in many Mediterranean or countries or in the Middle East. And there have been many hard times the Irish had to go through in their history.

The potato as the most important plant

In comparison to other Western European countries like France or Germany the Green Island was always seen as a poor country on the edge of Europe. It was the Englishman Sir Francis Drake who in 1577 got to know the potato on a trip to Peru. And after having discovered these plants in a ship wreck of the Spanish Armada on the Irish coast the Irish found their alimentary product which in the coming years and centuries would change the nation completely. The advantage was that the potato could be planted and keep on growing even in a place with a humid climat and severe wheather conditions like Ireland. In hard times the potato started feeding the whole nation and the result was that the Irish population grew up from one and a half million inhabitants up to 9 millions. The Irish didn’t till the soil and that’s why the English called the potato bed lazy bed as the Irish were able to feed the whole nation without hard work. But what they didn’t realize in their ignorance and arogance is the fact that in South American countries like Peru or Bolivia this method has been used since a very long time to plant potatoes. But after some economically lucky years for Ireland suddenly a rot infected the Green Island and started destroying more than a half of whole the potato harvest. This caused immensely high prices for potatoes in Ireland as well as the Grand Fame which is a dark chapter of Irish history. On ships many Irish people were forced to leave their home country and moved to America. Ireland lost a big amount of its nine millions inhabitants either due to emigration or death of starvation. Many Irish songs were written in those times telling stories about poverty and misery. One such song you might get to hear when visiting a pub with Irish folk music is Trasna na dtonnta which means Over the sea waves. It tells the story how Irish People had to move to America over the sea just for starting a completely new life there. Well look and this all happened only due to a potato crop failure. However this way many Irish traditions were brought to America from Ireland which we consider as typical American like the famour Halloween which is celebrated almost everywhere in Europe the 31st October. Originaly it was an Irish holiday and a religious one. Don’t forget that Ireland is one of the most catholic nations in Europe along with Italy and Poland. And by the way the Irish told me that they don’t do the stuff with the gruesome faces in the pumpkin. The American added this tradition which was readapted by the European. There are also many traditions of Irish folk music which have been brought to America this way. But about Irish Music and the pub culture I’m going to tell you in one of my next articles.

Some sweet delights at the end

But I don’t want to bother you to much with sad and depressing with chapters from the Irish history. There’s another sweet delight which is very famous and typical for Ireland and I can recommend it to you as an excellent gift from Dublin or wherever you are in Ireland. In my previous article I told you that the Guinness Storehouse is not only famous for its dark beer with the light froth crown and the harp as logo on it. Guinness became a brand producing and selling many interesting articles you can buy in any shop and of course in the storehouse itself. Ireland is also very famous for fudge as a traditional sweet. You will find it in many variants like salted caramel and with many different flavours. And you will also get fudge with the Guinness logo and beer flavour. I know it might sound strange and weird to you to produce any kind of sweets with beer flavour. But I’ve tried it and it’s something really original. And there’s much more as the Guinness Storehouse also produces its own chocolate which you will find in almost every souvenir shop everywhere in Ireland. This chocolate is filled with caramel but has a slight beer flavour.

Zdjęcie użytkownika Michał Perlinski.

I hope that I got your attention and that I have proved to you that Ireland has much more to offer than only the cliché of fish and chips you always associate with England and Ireland. So enjoy your trip and discover it all on your own!

 

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