Deals, Dares & Reviews To Help You Savor Your World.
We at SALUT! aren’t trying to poop on anyone’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, but we must point out an interesting and little-known food fact: the ”traditional” Irish feast of corned beef and cabbage isn’t really eaten in Ireland at all. In fact, the dish most commonly associated with green beer and leprechauns has instead a rather sad and bloody history, thanks in large part to the bullying Brits of centuries ago.
“Corning” meat — the act of adding enough dry salt or brine to preserve it in cooler temperatures — has been a part of worldwide peasant cuisine for centuries, and its use in preserving beef pops up often in ancient European and Middle Eastern cultures. The English, in particular, developed quite a taste for corned meat. During the industrial revolution, the powerful English throne, which had already seized much of the prime pastureland in Ireland to raise beef, began to mass-produce corned beef, which they promptly packed up and shipped off, either back to England for their own use in military rations, or to the Caribbean outposts to feed their slaves. The native Irish could afford neither the English cattle nor the corned beef it produced, and instead subsisted on inexpensive pork cuts and the carb-laden potatoes they had learned to grow and store against famine.
“The Celtic grazing lands of…Ireland had been used to pasture cows for centuries. the British colonized…the Irish, transforming much of their countryside into an extended grazing land to raise cattle for a hungry consumer market back at home. The British taste for beef had a devastating impact on the impoverished and disenfranchised people of Ireland. Pushed off the best pasture land and forced to farm smaller plots of marginal land, the Irish turned to the potato, a crop that could be grown abundantly in less favorable soil. Eventually, (English) cows took over much of Ireland, leaving the native population virtually dependent on the potato for survival.” — Jeremy Rifkin, “Beyond Beef“
When even potatoes became scarce during the Great Potato Famine, many Irish packed up and fled to the United States, where they encountered the cheap, flavorful and readily available corned beef already being enjoyed by Jewish immigrants. The ethnic Irish began to serve corned beef to their own families not so much out of nostalgia, but largely because they considered the dish a luxury item — a meal that promised hope in the New World. A meal they could finally afford.
So while you’re celebrating this St. Patrick’s day with a feast of traditional corned beef and cabbage, raise your mug of green beer (or better yet, your pint of Guinness!) and toast the struggles of the Irish. And be sure to astound your buddies with the true and bloody history of this iconic Irish-American dish.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day from your friends at SALUT!