Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrating St. Patrick, All Things Irish and Cultural Food Traditions

Our "Iron Cross" Oxalis plant, botanically classified as a "false shamrock."  Still looks super cool though, don't you think?

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day!  The day when all of us, whether we are Irish or not, can celebrate Irish heritage and “be Irish for a day.”  Irish heritage is something that we have celebrated in our house ever since I first got married, as my husband has a primarily Irish ancestry.  He loves to claim that I am “Irish by marriage,” despite the fact that I am mostly of Dutch ancestry.  However, I recently learned to my surprise that I, myself, may even have a little bit of Irish ancestry, or at least possibly Celtic.  So this St. Patrick’s Day, I have a new ancestral perspective to celebrate.

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I made an “Irish feast” yesterday, and we’re going to enjoy more of its abundance tonight for dinner.  This tasty Irish meal included gluten-free soda bread, a fresh herb salad with parsley, an Irish stew made with locally-sourced pasture-raised lamb, and a gluten-free chocolate cake with homemade green mint frosting (the only time that I use food coloring in my cooking).  To wash it all down, we enjoyed more of our homemade ginger beer that we refrigerated a couple of weeks ago.  It was all extremely delicious!!! **

I wanted to share this with you, not only to show you another example of how you can enjoy any holiday even if you are gluten-free or have other food allergies, but also to encourage you to explore many of those tasty ethnic food traditions from our ancestors.  This processes helps to connect us with another culture, and it connects us with traditions and the people that those traditions come from.  It also helps to remind us that we are all one human family. 

These cooking traditions are even better (and I think taste even better, as well as being more nutritious) if you cook them using more traditional cooking methods.  Give them a try, even if it’s just for special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day, which will make those celebrations even more enjoyable and memorable. 

I baked my gluten-free soda bread in the oven using a cast iron skillet.  Despite using my cast iron skillet on my stove top many times before, I had never used it to bake anything in the oven.  Man, did the bread ever turn out awesome!  I also used my Dutch oven to slow cook the Irish Stew for about two hours, and it was the best!  Buying this type of equipment is well worth the investment, and they should last you for the rest of your life and can be passed down to your children and grandchildren, if they are well cared for.  

After cooking this Irish feast, I have been inspired to create even more tasty meals using these two pieces of traditional cooking equipment.  As I’m sure many chefs will tell you, the right ingredients and equipment can make all the difference in the world when creating tasty things in the kitchen.

The gluten-free Irish Soda Bread, cooling on our counter after baking in the oven in my cast iron skillet. 

The Irish Stew, ready to be cooked for two hours in the Dutch oven on our stove top.

Our stew, tasty and ready for eating!  The leafy greens on top is chopped fresh parsley.

Our Irish feast!

I have always been drawn to Celtic culture and music, with its mystical qualities, and with my own faith, I can really appreciate the work of St. Patrick.  I think that it’s important to see past the modern traditions of the day and remember the reason why St. Patrick’s Day is actually celebrated: he helped to bring Christianity to a culture on an island that at one time did not recognize Christ.  This can be easily forgotten with all of the commercialism and noise in our world today.  I recognize that this does not resonate with everyone, but it’s a great reminder of how all of us can bring light into a dark world. 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!    

Here are a couple of music videos from my favorite Irish band, U2.  Enjoy!


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**In case you are interested in the recipes for the Irish Soda Bread and the Irish Stew, I found them in a couple of cookbooks that I own, so I cannot give them out here on the blog.  However, you can find the Irish Soda Bread recipe in my favorite gluten-free cookbook, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster, and the Irish Stew recipe can be found in The Irish Heritage Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson.

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