Ah, now, is the Pope Catholic?
Every culture has stereotypes. I find Irish stereotypes seriously flawed and strangely amusing. For example, I’ve never seen an Irishman dressed as a leprechaun drinking green beer. However, I’ve been wished “Top ‘o the mornin'” by a Texan dressed as a kilt-wearing leprechaun. He was actually drinking Guinness, and I think he was trying to find the bottom of the keg. (My family wishes me to specify that the kilt-wearing man was not related to me. He was simply a fellow concert goer at the North Texas Irish Festival. I feel compelled to mention, that he was also sporting a battered straw hat and nipple rings, but that’s a ‘whole nuther’ kind of story!)
Drinking Guinness leads us to our second Irish stereotype. This is the one that says, all Irishmen are genetically programmed lushes. I’ve sat in quite a few Irish pubs listening to music. The Guinness and Harp flow pretty freely there. However, I’ve seen more drunks weaving their way through our local Texan-populated St. Patrick’s Day parade than in all my Irish pub nights.
Next on my list of Irish stereotypes is the hair-trigger temper and propensity to have a ‘donnybrook’. Well, I’d tell you that isn’t true, except I’m surrounded by people of Irish descent who occasionally ‘get their Irish up’. However, the tempers at my house are (mostly) reserved for inter-sibling arguing, inanimate object berating, and occasional under-the-breath livestock cursing.
In Ireland, we didn’t see many examples of fiery ‘Irish tempers’. I did see one old farmer who became incensed, because, he thought the young city-boy next to him had insulted his favorite pub. Explanations were given. Guinness was shared. No punches were thrown.
There are a few stereotypes that held true for me in Ireland. The Irish are a friendly people. There are exceptions to every rule and jerks in every group, but overall we found the people of Ireland to be very welcoming. The cynical side of me thinks that’s due to the large part tourism plays in their economy, but the heart of me believes Ireland is lucky enough to have an open and kind culture.
The other undeniable fact that masquerades as a stereotype is the ubiquitousness of the Irish potato. For example, we ate at an amazing restaurant in Galway. The food there really stood out on our first trip. I ordered the special, which happened to be turkey and dressing. I love fresh seafood, so I eat a LOT of salmon and mussels in Ireland. By the time we reached Galway, I was ready for a change of pace. Turkey and dressing sounded perfect! In Texas, dressing is made from cornbread, but I knew that in other countries it is typically made with bread. I like both, so I thought I was prepared.
When my plate arrived, I discovered that dressing in Ireland is not made of bread at all! It was sort of like loaded mashed potatoes, except that the goodies weren’t bacon and cheese. It had all the seasoning and vegetables I would put in dressing stirred into mashed potatoes. It was different but very tasty. However, that wasn’t the funniest thing. It was that the potato dressing was served with a side of roast potatoes…and the roast potatoes were served with a side of fried potatoes. So, I had a plate loaded with turkey, cranberry sauce, mixed vegetables, fresh soda bread, and potatoes, Precious, lots of potatoes. Seriously, the Irish boil them, mash them, and stick them in a stew! They also fry them, bake them, and stick them in the dressing.
That meal stands out as the most ‘potato-ey’, but I’m not sure we had any lunches or dinners that didn’t involve spuds, which is ok with me! I like potatoes, and Irish food is terrific. It isn’t as though there was okra at every meal. (I absolutely cannot abide okra! It is the one vegetable that made me rebel as a child.)
Going with today’s theme of ever-present potatoes, I thought I’d share our recipe for colcannon. This is a tastier, richer, slightly healthier version of mashed potatoes. At least, it would be healthier if I could resist topping it with fresh melting butter. We have colcannon at every ceili and St. Patrick’s Day party. I make it ‘just because’ sometimes too. In Ireland, I’ve eaten colcannon with kale, as I make it, and with cabbage. I am not sure if that is a regional or seasonal variation. Actually, it could simply be the Irish version of’ ‘use what you’ve got’!
I hope you’ll give colcannon a try. It really is the only way I’ve ever gotten my mother-in-law to eat more than one obligatory bite of greens! After all, her family comes from Ireland, so potatoes make everything better!
If you have a moment, please leave us a comment! We would love to hear about silly stereotypes you have observed or cultural recipes you make. I love to cook food from all over the world!
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