Monday, April 8, 2019

Reflections and Ruminations: The Food and Drink of Ireland and Scotland

Reflections and Ruminations: The Food and Drink of Ireland and Scotland: Americans are familiar with the Irish potato, or as we say in Appalachia, Arsh Tater. Like our Irish relatives across the sea, the potat...

The Food and Drink of Ireland and Scotland

Americans are familiar with the Irish potato, or as we say in Appalachia, Arsh Tater. Like our Irish relatives across the sea, the potato is a staple of the American diet. As you saw in my post about the potato famine, the potato and Ireland go way back, and the potato is traditionally planted on St. Patrick's Day.
This is a potato patch on the Aran Islands. These islands are only reached by ferry and The Aran Islands are a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland, with a total area of about 29 miles. They constitute the barony of Aran in County Galway, Ireland.

Besides potatoes, what do the Irish eat?

Let's start with breakfast. There’s an Irish motto that says, “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper,” meaning it is wise to start the day with a large cooked breakfast. That leads me to what they call the “Full Irish Breakfast.”

Yes, those are beans, what we Americans call pork ‘n beans. You will also find those same beans in a Welsh, Scottish, and English breakfast. Meat is also an important part of the Irish breakfast and includes bacon, sausages, and black and white puddings. Pudding is NOT what we in American think of as pudding. Rather, black pudding is a sausage made from pork blood, pork fat, beef suet, and mixed with oats or barley. The difference between black and white pudding is the blood. White pudding has no blood, and it had been around since Medieval times when it was made by filling intestine skins with anything from chicken and almonds to pork liver, eggs, cream and rice. A traditional breakfast also includes potato cakes, what we call hash browns, fried eggs (although they do have scrambled), grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. and toast.

In Scotland, you will find this breakfast with one important addition - porridge; what Americans call oatmeal. But don't expect to find it served with milk and sugar. Whether it’s Scott’s Porage Oats straight out of the box or a gourmet restaurant version, nothing beats the hearty taste of good old Scottish porridge. Be warned; it is made with salt, not sugar. If you can pick it up with your hands, don’t be alarmed; that’s how it is supposed to look.

Where are the biscuits?

They save those for tea time. Only they don't call them biscuits - they call them scones because biscuits are what the Irish call cookies.
And even though I did see some scones that looked like American biscuits, most looked more like dessert.

And of course they are served with a "cuppa". The Irish and the Scots love their tea - only don't make the mistake of asking for "iced" tea. After they look at you like you are demented or mentally challenged, they will say, "We do NOT have iced tea, but I can bring you some ice." It's a trap! Don't fall for it!
They will bring you a glass with at the most 2 ice cubes!

There are lovely tea shops like this one I went in in the small village Adare in County Limerick.

Lunch and Dinner

The pub, which is short for public house, are plentiful in Ireland and Scotland. Yes, they serve alcohol - hello - it's Ireland and Scotland, but that's another blog! Pubs also serve some of the best food I have ever tasted. If you love meat and potatoes, then these islands in the Irish Sea are the places for you.

O'Connor's pub in Doolin on the west coast of Ireland is one of my favorites. It's a traditional tavern, opened in 1832, offering Irish food, outdoor benches and nightly live music. The walls are covered with badges like you find on police uniforms and currency from all over the world. Somewhere on those walls is a dollar bill with my name and VIRGINIA, USA on it.

And the food is traditional Irish fare like Shepard's Pie - a meat and vegetable filling topped with mashed potatoes. Beef tastes different in Ireland and Scotland. All of their cattle is grass fed only. No grain.

 Or the delicious Guinness Stew, served with a side of mashed potatoes, made with the drink most favored in Ireland - Guinness. Guinness is used in many recipes in Ireland from desserts to bread.

What's the favorite dish of the Scots?  Haggis.The rumors are all true. Scotland’s iconic national dish is made of sheep’s pluck (liver, lungs, and heart) minced with spices, salt, oatmeal, suet and onion inside a lining of the animal’s stomach (nowadays it can be artificial).
Did I try it? What do you think!
The Scottish do have a lovely dessert that's divine - Shortbread. Recipes for this cake-cookie like dessert date back to the 12th century.

I can't end this blog without talking about Irish Bread! Ireland is known for two kinds of amazing bread - soda bread and brown bread. With fresh Irish butter, made from grass-fed only cows, it's beyond amazing.