Before I get into any critiques of what is or isn't Irish food, I'd like to list out my credentials:
- I am roughly 65 percent Irish by birth.
- I have been forced to listen to Irish folk music from the age of nine because whoever drove got to control the radio.
- I attended Irish Fest in Milwaukee unwillingly for at least seven years in a row during my formative years. I've willingly gone back twice as an adult.
- My father once gave Tommy Makem an instant Irish oatmeal pack.
- I once sang "Danny Boy" at the top of my lungs at an Irish pub in D.C. with Ted Kennedy, who was only 40 feet away from me.
- I really like Guinness.
Image: Green beer, Shutterstock
I'm going to throw down some basic truths first. It's St. Paddy's Day, not St. Patty's Day. People don't really pee on the Blarney Stone. There were never any indigenous snakes slithering around Ireland, so the story of St. Patrick banishing them from the island is probably just an allegory of some kind.
I'm not going to delve into the complexities of whether modern-day corned beef is Irish, Irish-American, or even Jewish. The soda bread that I make every year has a cup of sugar in it, which completely disqualifies it as authentic. I make both these things every March 17, and I couldn't care less how authentic they are.
But search any St. Patrick's Day-themed Pinterest board, and you're going to find a plethora of "St. Patrick's Day" foods that are not Irish (or Irish-American or even traditionally eaten on March 17) in any way, shape, or form. I'm not making any judgments on the deliciousness of said recipes—I'd eat the hell out of most of them. They're just not Irish. So if you're looking to mix it up this year, try these completely inauthentic but delicious ways to celebrate St. Paddy's Day.
1. Irish nachos. Not Irish. At all. I remember being at Irish Fest as a young girl, and even then I knew these were a bastardization of authentic Irish food. But a snack made with potatoes, cheese, and whatever green thing that's thrown on them? Get in my belly! I may never willingly refer to them as Irish nachos but put a pile of them in front of me, and they'll be gone quicker than you can shoot a pint of Murphy's.
Irish Nachos. Image: Courtesy of What Gaby's Cooking
2. Any recipe that involves Bailey's Irish Cream. Look, I adore Bailey's. My first cat was named Bailey, and most of the ingredients in this liqueur are sourced from Ireland. But it's not some fabled Irish product that can trace its history back to a Gaelic recipe carved in stone found in a fabled Irish cavern, no matter how many Celtic knots they put on the label. I'm older than this product by one year. It was dreamed up in a multinational drinks group corporate office in London. Again, I love the stuff and once spent an entire day consuming Bailey's and ham sandwiches (It's a long story). It's just not "Irish."
Bailey's Irish Cream Swirl Brownies. Image: Courtesy of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Guinness Chocolate Cake with Baileys Irish Cream Buttercream from Miso Bakes
Baileys Irish Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Banana and Baileys Pancakes from Baking Serendipity
3. Irish macarons. These are not Irish. Macarons are French. I salute all of you who have ever made successful macarons. I could guarantee that any macarons I might make would never have feet. But feet or no feet, no matter how delicious they are, they're just not Irish.
French Macarons With an Irish Twist. Image: Courtesy of Savoring Time in the Kitchen
4. Creme de menthe. Again, look at the way this is spelled. This is just not Irish, nor are your brownies with a layer of creme de menthe Irish. I'll probably still eat the whole pan. I just won't do it while singing "Wild Rover" at the top of my lungs.
Creme de Menthe Cheesecake. Image: Courtesy of Confessions of a Foodie Bride
5. Green food coloring. Green things are not automatically Irish by default. I'd eat a velvet cake of any color, but dyeing it green does not make it Irish. Rice Krispies treats don't become Irish because you add green food coloring, even if you do shape them into a shamrock. No matter how many green sprinkles, icing, or shamrock-shaped candies you use, it won't make them Irish. Adorable and delicious? Yes. Irish? No.
Green Velvet Cheesecake Shamrocks. Image: Courtesy of the Novice Chef
6. Irish cocktails. There are no traditional "Irish" cocktails. People drank beer, Irish whiskey, mead, and poitin (aka poteen, a potent form of Irish moonshine made from barley or potatoes). I'm even willing to list Irish Coffee, because coffee did become popular during the 16th century in England, but it didn't become the Irish Coffee we know of today until after the Second World War. In modern-day Ireland, especially in the bigger cities, people drink all kinds of cocktails that are popular all over the world. But here in America, even if it's green, contains Irish whiskey, and has O' or Mc in the name, it doesn't mean it's Irish.
That being said, one of my St. Patrick's Day rituals is to make what my husband and I refer to as a McLynchburg Lemonade. This came about when we didn't have Jack Daniel's whiskey in the house, so we added Bushmills to a Lynchburg Lemonade instead. Every year we delight in the horrified looks that decent liquor store proprietors give us when we tell them what we're going to use that Irish whiskey for.
Irish Coffee. Image: Courtesy of Chez Us
7. On a serious note, I'd like to make a personal request. Can we all quit creating desserts and drinks that celebrate the Irish car bomb? I know there's no ill intent, but think about what that term represents. This drink is a reference to the bombs that maimed and killed hundreds of people during the period of time known as "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland. It's not really something that should be reduced to a cupcake. Besides, real men and women drink their stouts straight.
8. If you willingly drink green beer and are over the age of 22, your Irish card gets taken away.
You're beyond help.
Kristina McLean drinks beer and wears green 365 days a year, so she doesn't get pinched. She also blogs at MouthFromTheSouth.com
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