The people of Ireland haven't made any spectacular contributions to the global culinary cupboard because, throughout our history, we've focused our efforts on the drinks cabinet. Guinness, Jameson and Cork Dry read far more impressively than bacon, cabbage and boxty. Not that there is anything wrong with boxty.
Though perhaps not the most dynamic or flavoursome of culinary traditions, the Irish cooking heritage is not without its highlights. And for the most part, traditional Irish cooking is peasant cooking. This bodes well for students who can honour their culinary heritage while living on the bones of their arse.
Every peasantry has its staple; the Chinese have rice, the Italians had polenta. In Ireland we have potatoes. The humble spud. The cornerstone of the nation perhaps.
By abiding by a very Irish diet, students can eat cheaply (definitely) and healthily (...) while both avoiding the classic student pitfalls of Pot Noodles and radiator water and embracing our culture and keeping alive Irish gastronomical traditions that otherwise will wither away like blighty spuds.
A traditional, thrifty Irish day might go thusly:Breakfast, the most important meal of the day
What better way to put yourself on the right track than with that early morning institution of the egg-in-a-cup.
Boil three eggs, peel them, then mush them in a mug with enough butter to grease a hi-ace.
Egg-in-a-cup exercises those arteries in a way that kick-starts the day better than a cold shower. Heartburn is the sign of a good meal.
Also at this time, put on the spuds, lots of spuds. Leave them boil. (You don’t have to worry about leaving potatoes cooking unattended because if you’ve ever seen a pot of spuds boil over you’ll know that scalding water cascades over the sides once it reaches boiling point. This will put out the fire. Sorted.)Simple snacks
Snacking, though frowned upon by most dieting regimes of today is key to the student diet and actually more in tune with the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors than today’s regimented three square meals a day rigmarole. Eat little often. Nothing picks up waning energy levels like sugar sandwiches, something that many of our generation will remember. Bread, butter, sugar. On payday you can substitute the bread for digestives.Drain the spuds
By lunchtime the spuds will have boiled. Drain them out and slice a few up thin. Potato sandwiches are the only way to go. Genuinely. Potatoes, bread, cheese. Who needs nutrients when you can have that much starch?
Still hungry? Another snack is easily come upon. Most cafes will have squares of butter and jam on their tables and these are readily available to the public (borrowing was often part of the Irish peasant’s diet). Stock up then off to mass where you’ll find they dispense free wafers several times a day. Sometimes the queue drags but there’s usually more than one line, so if you’re quick you can have a substantial Catholic cracker snack that’ll tide you over until dinner.Dinnertime!
And though I doubt you’ll be particularly hungry after a veritable smorgasbord of a day there are still several potatoes up my sleeve.
Champ is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and spring onions. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage. The diversity is astounding, I know.
The spuds we have already from the morning so we’re half way there. Honestly, champ and colcannon, poles apart as their respective recipes may be, taste very similar. They taste like potatoes and green.
Now cabbage and spring onions both cost money, which we’re all pretty short on these days, hence the article. BUT we’re in luck. Fortunately, cabbage is tasteless. Why fortunately you might ask, fortunately I say because it can be substituted for grass, dock leaves or any other class of free green leaf you can find. It won't improve the taste but it won't (can't) make it any worse.Dessert
If you’ve room, here is another Irish classic: goody. Goody is basically bread-and-butter pudding for those who can’t afford the butter. Bread boiled in milk and sugar. Mmm.Voilà. Sin é
It’s easier than you think to eat well and at the same time honour the all too ignored traditions of our culinary past while subsisting on the clippings of tin. I’ll leave you with parting advice in the form of two words that’ll change your view on few on Irish food, or the very least your cholesterol: fried bread.