Irish Soda Bread, Mashed Potatoes, or Bangers and Boxty! There are uniquely Irish foods that add to the St. Patrick's Day festivities, but like any festival, food often defines the festival day more than it does the culture. Ireland does not compete with the world class cuisines of Europe but it has a distinct and defined historical food history of its own. Any Irish meal of lamb, oyster, stew, potatoes or cabbage complete with flat bread can provide an Irish feast on St. Paddy's Day.
Corned Beef and Cabbage is the most famous traditional meal for a St. Patrick's Day feast in the United States. Irish immigrants who came to the US fleeing the Irish potato blight in Ireland in the mid-1800s discovered that corned meats were easier to obtain in the US because of a more abundant supply of American beef. Originally, it was a cheap meal for the poor, struggling Irish family, but as Irish pride developed, celebrations of the Irish culture in the US designated Corned Beef and Cabbage as the traditional Irish ethnic food of the newly proud immigrants. In Ireland beef were too valued as dairy animals to serve at meal time. Pork and cabbage were more the typical Irish food in Ireland.
A traditional St. Patrick's Day feast is limited only by the desire of the cook. Irish stew is a favorite on anyone's St. Paddy's Day meal table. Irish stew is a simple stew made from lamb or mutton. It contains potatoes and onions and is seasoned at the whim of the Irish cook. A secret ingredient in most Irish Stews is an ample base of Irish Stout. Traditional Irish Stew was made from bones, trimmings, and discards simmered for a long time to coax out as much flavor and nourishment as they would yield.
Mashed potatoes are necessary for any St. Paddy's Day feast. The Irish potato was a staple food item in the Irish household for generations. Irish mashed potatoes are called "champ" or "poundies" because of the way they are eaten. A potato mound is created with a large dollop of butter placed in the middle of the mound. Forks full of potato are dipped from the outside of the mound and dipped into the well of butter. The word "champ" means to smash or pound the potato; hence the name "champ" or "poundie."
Pork and/or beef sausage in Ireland is referred to as "Bangers." The word "banger" means a serious prevarication or tall tale. It is said that the name originated from the lies that were told describing the ingredients that actually went into the sausage. Bangers are a must for the St. Paddy's Day feast.
Another uniquely Irish meal is Cruibins. This meal is usually taken in a pub and accompanies a night of drinking and revelry. Cruibins is a meal of pig's feet cooked as a stew with carrots, onions, spices. They are then dipped in breadcrumbs before frying. Cruibins are not for everyone, but eaten with enough stout, they compliment St. Paddy's Day quite nicely.
Irish breads have a unique place on the St. Paddy's Day table. Scones and flat breads are unique to the Irish culture. Instead of being made with yeast these breads are made with baking soda, which creates a flatter bread without as much air. Scones can be made into any desired shape or flavor ranging from sweet to dry. As it is any most kitchens, the creativity of the cook provides the actual recipe that defines Irish breads.
Whether it is Cabbage and Corned Beef, Irish Stew, Scones, Irish Soda Bread, Mashed Potatoes, or Bangers and Boxty, any Irish food is fair game for a St. Patrick's Day feast. Legend has it that Cabbage and Corned Beef is the traditional Irish St. Paddy's Day feast; however, the Corned Beef and cabbage meal is tradition only in the United States. As St. Patrick's Day has evolved into a worldwide celebration of all things Irish, it is fair to state that all meals Irish are fair game for any St. Patrick's Day feast.