My first post included, among other things, Ireland as place I’d like to visit. When I think of Ireland, potatoes, corned beef, cabbage, and whiskey are the foods that come to mind. I know more jokes about Irish cooking than recipes.
Yet Irish food is indeed true cuisine. The Emerald Isles stands its own on the global food scene and Irish chefs are proudly displaying what their country has to offer.
Perhaps my indifference to corned beef and cabbage is tied to memories of my Indiana public school’s cafeteria’s attempt to serve us a typical “Irish” meal. Our school lunch trays were typically laden with the above mentioned items minus the whiskey (of course). We kids would slowly lumber back to our lunch tables and feel bad for Irish kids who had to regularly eat this watery pale and lifeless cabbage, plain boiled potatoes, and this strangely colored corned beef that was briny and stringy. To call this cuisine from anywhere rendered it moot. As a kid, I just didn’t get it- it just seemed boring. Plus, the dried parsley sprinkled on top didn’t help it at all.
Flash forward to my teenaged years, Irish cooking still didn’t appeal. The ingredients were things I’d seen before at any grocery store. The ingredients seemed so...ordinary. Watching PBS, I was enchanted by spices, flavors, and histories of cuisines of China and India. But now that I’m older, and into the world of food, I see that modern Irish cuisine has a lot in common with what is now the Farm to Table movement.
Occasionally, I’ll catch Kevin Dundon’s “Modern Irish Food” on Create TV (Channel 11-3). The dishes are generally simple fare made and served with care with fresh locally sourced ingredients. Dundon highlights the farmers, fishmongers, and dairies that produce the best available ingredients. Comprised of the best available ingredients, Irish cooking today does little to guild the lily.
For this St Patrick’s Day, it’s worthing thinking outside the box when it comes to Irish cuisine. When prepared with quality ingredients and great care, Irish cuisine is peasant food elevated into something truly extraordinary. The spirit of it goes back to the basics of what cooking is supposed to be. Irish food is certainly not the bland looking, salty stuff saw on my lunch tray once a year as a child. We may not all be able to source ingredients the way Dundon does, but nonetheless, Irish cuisine is cooking at its elemental best.
Komala Hayes is from Gary, IN and resides in Chicago where she obtained a Master’s degree in Sociological Theory, Culture and Food. For Komala, the perfect meal can be had in many places, and inspiration fuels discovery, experimentation, and learning. She draws culinary inspiration from her mom, Julia Child, PBS and libraries -as they all take her to different worlds. She is currently working on a short science fiction story based on the concept of imaginary time.