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Irish Food

...And no, it's not all potatoes!

Sometimes we get an image or idea stuck in our head or we automatically associate it with someone or something. That’s why my title has the quirky subtitle of “…and no, it’s not all potatoes!”

The delicious, down-to-earth food of the Ireland and its people isn’t just potatoes. That’s not to say that there isn’t some amazing food made with potatoes—there certainly is.

We’re going to explore a bit of the time-honored Irish fare and how it can make you fall in love with the country even more than the land and traditional pubs already have.

Breakfast

Oh my… If you’ve never experienced breakfast in Ireland or even in a really good Irish pub elsewhere in the world, you’ve never experienced heaven. The plates have to be big and your appetite even bigger to take it all in.

It has:

  • Irish Bacon (aka Rashers)
  • Local Sausage
  • Black AND White Pudding
  • Baked Beans
  • Fried Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Grilled Tomatoes

But wait – that isn’t all!

It’s also served with:

  • Brown Bread ~or~ Soda Bread
  • Butter
  • Jam
  • Tea (or coffee)
  • Juice

The popular saying by Adele Davis (an American nutritionist) of “eat breakfast like a king—lunch like a prince—and dinner like a pauper” is certainly true for the Full Irish Breakfast. It’s not only a hearty meal, but its grandeur is definitely fit for royalty.

Lunch

Lunch and dinner have so much in common—both are full of variety when it comes to the Irish menu. Satisfying even the most fickle of appetites isn’t hard because the choices are diverse.

We’ll start off with the basics. And my personal favorite…

The best fish ’n’ chips I’ve ever had was at Aarons Takeaway in Kilsheelan, County Tipperary. A huge piece of fresh cod with a crisp, light batter, enough chips to feed two people, salt, vinegar and a lemon slice. I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t eat it all.

If you are ever in the area, you have to stop by and grab a bite. They’re well-known for their humongous wraps and massive burgers as well. If you think I’m giving preferential treatment to Aaron’s—I am. I’m hoping to go back and eat there again (wink-wink).

Check out their Facebook page.

Dinner

A traditional, national dinner for the Irish and the hungry tourist is a prime example of the beautiful heartiness of the country. The variety is as vast as the country sides…

The meal may consist of a hearty Irish Stew or Beef & Guinness Stew with a side of brown bread and butter, of course. Irish stew is traditionally lamb with root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots. Some regions or homes make it with beef. Seldom do two kitchens make it the same, which adds to the uniqueness of the food itself.

Guinness Stew is a close cousin to Irish Stew with a good dose of the delicious dark stout added to the stock adding a richness that simply has to be tasted to be appreciated. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you.

Both stews are usually served with brown bread or soda bread and butter. Is your mouth watering yet? We have more to go!

While staying in Dublin, I experienced my most decadent of room service with a plate of Bacon and Cabbage. Now, for you Americans, get our classical view of "bacon" out of your head. The Irish version of bacon for this dish is equaled only to a large slab of ham on top of braised cabbage that is out of this world. With a side of mashed potatoes, the meal will keep you going for days.

Another well-known dish of Ireland is an amazing combination of basics—cabbage and potatoes, called Colcannon. Even if you are not a big vegetable lover, Colcannon is marvelous. Loaded with the richness of cream and butter—how could it not be?

Of course, being an island, Ireland has a rich heritage of seafood. Of course! Beautiful salmon, fish of all varieties, shellfish, etc., they truly have to be experienced to be appreciated.

At the renowned O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin, County Clare, they serve a rich, creamy seafood chowder loaded with cod, salmon, mussels, and prawns. With traditional brown bread, it was amazing. I had the chowder while Heather and Joe had the salmon which looked delicious, too. (There’s a $1 bill with the names Hellen, Heather, & Joe on it taped to the wall by the bench straight as you walk in the door—just in case you want to check it out.)

There’s so many other main dishes we could cover in this blog, but for now, here are a couple of honorable mentions:

  • Boxty – the Irish potato pancake
  • Coddle – one pot dish of pork, rashers, potatoes and onions
  • Champ – mashed potatoes with spring onions (similar to colcannon)
  • Barmbrack – a yeasted bread with sultanas and raisins

The Snacks!

The Irish are no slouches when it comes to snacks either! We found plenty to pacify the appetite while waiting for the next meal.

“Tayto Crisps” by their brand name are by far the most prevalent of savory snack foods—known as potato chips in the States, crisps are thinly sliced, deep fried potatoes with any number of seasonings. But I bet you already figured that one out.

Cadbury Milk Chocolate—no explanation needed. Cadbury is extremely popular in Ireland. The varieties, ingredients, and popularity speak for themselves. The first night in Kilsheelan we discovered Cadbury Snack Sandwich, Cadbury Snack shortcake and Cadbury Dairy Milk—chocolate heaven.

Custard Creams are the ultimate tea biscuit that melt deliciously when dunked into hot tea. For the novice traveler—biscuits in Ireland and the UK are cookies in America.

Though technically not “snacks,” two particular condiments come to mind when discussing great Irish food:

  • Ballymaloe Country Relish: a tomato relish that goes on and with everything
  • YR Brown Sauce: amazing sweet and savory sauce that also highlights all types of food

So even the tip of the iceberg wasn’t touched in our list of snacks; you would be better off going to Ireland and sampling them all yourself.

Are you packed yet?

The Drinks!

It’s no secret that the primary drink of Ireland is tea, and rightly so. The two most popular brands of tea are Barry’s and Lyons. Personal preference sets the two apart.

Sodas are as popular in Ireland as they are in the US, with some actually crossing over. Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper are found throughout Ireland—surprised? No, didn’t think so. However, there is quite a variety of sodas in Ireland, which are different. Here are a few:

  • Brown Lemonade – fizzy lemon flavored soft drink with a brown coloring
  • Club Orange – Club brand orange flavored soda
  • Red Lemonade – traditional variation of lemonade with a red color
  • Cidona – apple flavored soft drink (made by Bulmers)
  • Tanora – tangerine flavored soft drink

For a more “grown up” drink, there are the world famous alcoholic varieties:

  • Bulmers (Magners) – hard cider made in County Tipperary, Ireland
  • Guinness – a Dublin institution served worldwide, dark stout
  • Smithwick’s – a beer for those who prefer a lighter drink
  • Jameson – a whiskey like no other
  • Bailey’s – perfect creamy liqueur on its own or in a hot cup of coffee

Take it ALL in!

Whatever you choose to eat, whatever you choose to drink – take time to enjoy it all:

…the smell as you walk into the homey little restaurant,

…a warm, inviting smile from the host/hostess,

…the view of the street while sipping on your Guinness,

…a plate of hearty, home style food fit for royalty,

and the satisfying fullness of a delicious meal.

The variety of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of Ireland will excite you, fascinate you, and absolutely compel you to return. Come home to Ireland.

WAIT!

We touched on some of the most obvious and completely forgot some others! What about:

  • The Trad(itional) Music!
  • The lovely wool & lace!
  • …and MORE!

Well, there’s always the next blog!

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