How, in the name of all things authentic and Irish, did the green in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations become green food coloring?
The green of the Emerald Isle is not from a bottle, but from the shade of verdant grass covering this ancient, sea-surrounded hilly land. Sample a bite of Irish cheese, and you can almost taste the particular character of the soil and grass. A distinct underlying sweetness makes Irish dairy products like no other. It’s present in several wondrous cheeses from Ireland, all or most of which are available in the cheese sections of most large supermarkets. Try Kerrygold’s Dubliner or aged Cheddar, Cashel blue, smoked Gubbeen and even Irish brie.
As for green beer . . . please. If you’re talking authentic and Irish, think ale and think red. Medium-bodied, malty, a bit fruity and a distinct golden-red, it’s a perfect St. Patrick’s Day choice for drinking and for cooking with. Look for Harpoon Hibernian Irish Style Red Ale (harpoonbrewery.com), brewed in Boston and widely available.
Of course everyone rightly associates potatoes, native to the Americas, with Ireland. Indeed, praties (Celtic for potatoes) became a staple as soon as they were introduced in Ireland and remain so to this day. Here’s a thought. This year, pass on the green beer and the tried-and-true but ho-hum corned-beef-and-cabbage. Instead, serve up something different—such as a glorious soup, thick and creamy, combining Irish cheeses, ale and potatoes or a savory salad toss with corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.
What better tribute could there be to the Irish, one of America’s first great immigrant waves, than a true melting pot of dishes?
By Crescent Dragonwagon, a food writer in Saxton’s River, Vt.