Who Was St. Patrick?
Born in Wales, Saint Patrick first encountered Ireland when he was taken there as a slave by Irish pirates at the age of 16. He tended sheep for six years on Slemish Mountain in County Antrim before managing to escape back to England.
He became a priest, and expressed his desire to return to Irish soil so he could preach the faith throughout the island. However, a different Patrick was chosen by the bishop to go to Ireland, but historians maintain that he never made it across the turbulent Irish Sea.
Finally, Patrick got his wish, and his mission in Ireland lasted for 30 years. Afterward, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in A.D. 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.
St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated publicly in Boston in 1737. The international celebrations then became increasingly common after the great potato famine forced huge numbers of Irish folk to America, Australia, and Europe.
Nowadays, the festivities are more of a secular celebration, but it is actually a religious feast day that falls during Lent. Custom has it that fasting was set aside for one day to allow the nation to celebrate their culture and rich harvest.
Today, Ireland has plenty to celebrate. It's economically booming and gastronomically wealthy. From Downpatrick to Dublin on the east coast and Glencolumbkille to Galway on the west (and all points in between), this small island has it all: organic meats, seafood, rich dairy products, fruit orchards, and an abundance of vegetables.
- The west coast of Ireland, including the Aran Islands, is home to a few salmon smokehouses. Local pubs serve this delicacy on fresh wheaten bread with slices of lemon and freshly ground black pepper, alongside a creamy pint of "the black stuff."
- The sea provides lobsters, prawns, oysters, and mussels and all kinds of fish including cod, plaice, herring, and mackerel.
- Another jewel from the sea is dulse. This edible salty seaweed, which is usually eaten on its own, can be mixed with mashed potato to make dulse champ.
- Irish moss, known as carrageen moss, is gathered from the sea in the spring and, due to its gelling properties, used to make beautiful, solid mousse pudding.
- Ireland's excellent aged cheeses and rich creamy salted butters are now imported to the United States and are readily available from good supermarkets or delicatessens.
The love of a good drink hasn't faltered amongst the Irish either. It wasn't long ago that farmers in the hills of Donegal distilled alcohol from potatoes. The drink was called poteen or poitin (pronounced "pot-cheen"), named after the "little pot" in which it is normally made. It was illegal due to being nearly 100 proof and highly intoxicating.
Nowadays, locals are happy enough drinking world-famous whiskey and stout because they know that "if you can't go to heaven, may you at least die in Ireland."
Ready to get your Irish on?