First things first: food is way better in Ireland than in the UK
Food IS important. Many people eat between 2 and 4 times a day; if you look at the aggregate time spent between shopping, cooking, eating and cleaning, you spend more time in a lifetime caring for your stomach than doing many other things. Excellent reason to be interested in Irish food.
Do not believe that the famous Full Irish Breakfast (similar to the English one) represents the daily life of the Irish, it is reserved for weekends, the rest of the time it is rather cereals or porridge; porridge being the real classic of Irish breakfast by the way. You can find it everywhere, it is very cheap, nourishing and extremely healthy, how can you beat that?
As for lunch, lots of parents whose children spend a year in an Irish host family (there are many of them in the French high school) grumble because their children always have the same sandwich sparsely filled and accompanied by a small packet of crisps.. but what they do not understand is that the Irish do the same for them! Whether for children or adults, there are few canteens and cafeterias in the country, the rule is the lunch box.
In cafes and pubs, the Irish eat often soup for lunch( unlike in France when it’s for dinner). Almost all pubs offer them, they are generally homemade and excellent. Served with soda bread and the excellent Irish butter that has nothing to envy to its Norman cousin,the soup makes a whole lunch and will not ruin you.
The real hot meal is the evening meal. MANY, many eggs and chicken (well it’s the same source basically..) cod and superb seafood (if you think about the fact that the Irish were not yet fishermen at the time of the Great Famine, what a mess ..), beef and local mutton, often cooked in stew, it means the meat in sauce has simmered for a long time.
With potatoes, aaahh the Irish potato, in the 19e century its abundance earned the Irish to be the most vigorous people in Europe and its disease the most decimated one in Europe; so basically the Irish potatoe has been both source of abundance and misery for the Irish. The fact remains that in the twenty-first century it still occupies a prominent place, in all pubs but also on family tables. Beware false friend, if an Irishman tells you about « chips », he talks about fries!
There is also an interesting offer of vegetarian and vegan products. All supermarkets have a « Free From » department, which is very convenient to find at once a complete offer of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free products. Dublin’s 1st veggie restaurant, Cornucopia, opened its doors in 1986, at a time when the concept was barely known in France. Being a vegetarian is a non-topic in Ireland, while in France most restaurants don’t even have a vegetarian dish on the menu. As for the vegan offer, in the unlikely event that nothing is displayed, one can always ask. Unlike the French, the Irish all know what vegan food is, and even if the sacrosanct Roast on Sunday is on the menu of all pubs on lord’s day, the staff is immediately able to say whether they can accommodate something vegan or not, which they will do very willingly.
In general, the Irish work with local products (when you are an island it’s a concept easy to define!), and they do it better and better; in fact they have acquired 300 years of culinary know-how in just two generations. Ireland even has several Michelin-starred restaurants now, among them one of the smallest michelin-starred restaurants in the world, Liath, in Blackrock, which offers a unique menu in the heart of a vintage market.
In addition, some dishes such as Fish&Chips have earned their letters of nobility; from street food served in old newspapers, the Fish&Chips has thus become a star dish of the rankings, many will tell you that you can find the best Fish&Chips of Dublin in Howth..
In a pub, food, even if it’s often very good, has the main function of lining the stomach and preparing it to receive and metabolize a lot of alcohol, food as a means to an end so to speak, which explains the ommnipresence of the famous Fish &Chips in particular!
Next week: how the Irish are proud of their products