Happy Saint Patrick's Day Everyone! If there was ever an excuse to celebrate Irish food this is it; after all, we've reached a mature stage where we no longer colour beer green or squeeze ourselves into Leprechaun costumes. Or have we?
The first St. Patrick's Day food I experienced abroad was in Kitty O'Sheas pub in Paris when I was a student there. A friends parents who were visiting kindly took us there for lunch and pints of Guinness - rescuing us from a dietary dependence on pain au chocolat and cheap wine - our favourite was a rancid concoction bought for 6 francs in the bakery that turned your mouth instantly black. God love us, I think we thought the look was somewhere between Simone de Beauvoir and vampires.
All around Ireland and further afield it's lovely to see lots of foodie events happening in conjunction with the one and only festival of Irishness. Great to see chefs like Catherine Fulvio (a Wicklow local like myself) travelling with the Irish delegation to Washington to promote Irish food. Chef Donal Skehan is joining Bord Bia at their events in Paris and in over in Texas, County Cork born foodie Rachel Gaffney is doing tv and radio spots throughout the period to celebrate Irish food and involve the huge Irish diaspora in the States in learning about traditional Irish foods and recipes.
All over the world, little bits of Ireland will be popping into people's mouths throughout St. Patrick's Day. I just hope they're decent examples of the wonderful products we produce here and not orange coloured cupcakes with acid green icing.
It was during this momentous "hey we're eating real food" occasion at Kitty O'Sheas that I first tasted crubeens, or pigs trotters. My parents, who were solid farming folk had brought them home once or twice but I had always managed to run out the back door, fast. So ironically it was in Paris that I first ate one of the stalwarts of the Irish menu.
And so it is with national days of any kind; we can use them as a way to try something new and extend our dietary range which for everybody can get caught in a rut. It was at a recent Christmas market in Galway full of German traders that I had proper German Frankfurter (made and cooked authentically) for the first time in many years. It reminded me to include them in my shop now and again, and only for the fact that I've a freezer full of gorgeous free range pork still on the go I would be eating them more often.
As for us Irish at home - this short piece in the Examiner puts the case pretty simply (via Good Food Ireland) for using the occasion of St. Patrick's Day to remind us to buy Irish food. After all, our food exports are worth 8 billion euro a year, it is the one part of the economy that is really thriving and if all of us throw a few more Irish food items into our trolley every week it makes a real difference.