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Irish Stew: Setting the Record Straight


Barry Foy
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Many food websites are observing the runup to St. Patrick's day with items about Guinness, soda bread, corned-beef-and-cabbage, and so on. The following historical info regarding the often misunderstood Irish stew is presented in the same spirit.

IRISH STEW: An earthy traditional dish based on a small number of basic ingredients, namely potatoes, onions, and mutton, and known for the narrow band of the color spectrum that it occupies, extending from, roughly, whitish to grayish. Irish stew was not always this drab: The original version, believed to have migrated with the Celts from the south of France, featured more colorful ingredients, but the loss of these to successive famines necessitated the substitution of whatever products remained available, however dreary in appearance. The potato, for example, was introduced only in the wake of the Great Tomato Famine of 1712. The ruinous 1779 Great Fish Famine, followed by the devastating Great Shellfish Famine two years later, led to mutton’s inclusion in place of a rich assortment of seafood. Onions found their way into the recipe after the catastrophic Great Garlic Famine of 1825. Even salt and pepper might not have entered the picture had it not been for the Great White-Wine-and-Saffron Famine of 1839. As for olive oil, lost to its own famine in the mid-1840s, it was simply never replaced. As if Ireland had not suffered enough, one final indignity remained, in the form of the Great Dishware Famine of 1882, which forced peasants to eat the now-pallid stew out of their bare hands. For many of them this was the last straw, and a final wave of emigration left the island nearly uninhabited. Happily, conditions are much improved since then, and Ireland and its people are now optimistic, prosperous, and well fed. In a holdover from leaner times, however, it is still customary for foreign visitors to that country to pack a lunch.

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It may be the history of Irish Stew, but is sounds more like the invention of the HOT POCKET! :shock:

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Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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