I love Irish food. My childhood was happy and healthy, nourished by plenty of potatoes, succulent meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and my mother’s homemade cakes, breads and desserts. When I moved to America over twenty years ago I was astonished to hear so many disparaging remarks about my national cuisine.
I remember watching the Today show one morning. Bryant Gumble was hosting back then. His recent trip to Ireland was a highlight of that particular show. I watched with pride as he praised the beauty of my homeland. My bubble soon burst. He threw his eyes to heaven once he mentioned Irish food.
When Irish American comedian Dennis Leary was being roasted by
his friends at Comedy Central, he joked it should have been a boil
instead of a roast. His Irish mother and most Irish women have a
penchant for boiling nearly every meal.
Irish born actor, Peter O’Toole, said his three favorite Irish foods were all Guinness. Poor Irish food! It often takes a beating here in America.
Our cooking has a reputation for being bland, sauceless and lacking in flavor. This opinion is understandable in a world where exotic spices are over-rated, and food is expected to appeal to the eye more than to the palate. The old joke tells how the Irish cook’s spice drawer holds nothing but salt and pepper.
Irish food may seem dull to some, but for me it is the straightforward simplicity of its ingredients and techniques that put it in a distinctive, satisfying class all of its own.
French cuisine is magnificent, yet not for the everyday cook with little time to fuss and fume over sautee pans and steaming pots. In years gone by the Irish cook had little more than an open fire and a big black pot for cooking. As a result traditional Irish meals are not elaborate.
Simple and economical, Irish food does not try to mask the true
flavor of wholesome, quality ingredients. It is an unpretentious
cuisine, whose strength lies in its simplicity.
Many Americans eat out way too often. Sometimes I think the home cook is intimidated by the complexity of many ethnic cuisines. Cooking shows focus on elaborate recipes and visually appealing dishes, rather than assisting the home cook to learn simple, economical family favorites.
Irish Americans have an unjustified, inferiority complex about the traditional recipes of our forefathers. We need to learn to be proud of our cuisine. To this day it is the rustic food of my childhood that I long for, not the fancy food I first tasted when I lived in New York.
Anyone who has tasted a Guinness beef stew, or a roast leg of lamb, can testify to the glories of Irish cooking. With Thanksgiving fast approaching America is now planning the great family get-together and time-honored dinner menu. This week I plan to share some of my recipes that can help give an Irish twist to a traditional American Thanksgiving meal.
We’ll learn how to cook rutabagas, and roast potatoes. Remember, the Irish know plenty about cooking turkey. An Irish Christmas dinner usually features roast turkey.
And so I make no apologies for Irish food. I plan to keep cooking as
my mother cooked, and her mother and grandmother before her.
Come back and visit often. Together we can bring Irish American food to a new level of excellence and appreciation.
Slán agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom