St Patrick’s Day, the holiday that has everyone wishing they were Irish, is fast approaching. It is with that good-natured green envy that I will be sharing Irish morsels of family, food, and travel with you this week.
But first, a few words on Heritage in my Kitchen:
I love learning about heritage in the kitchen (my own and others’). About 10 years ago I started collecting cookbooks about traditional Irish and Scottish baking and cooking. I wanted to know more about the food my ancestors grew, processed, made. As a History student studying Irish and Scottish history, I was interested in the bigger picture of how the landscapes they lived in provided, or failed to provide, the means of their sustenance and survival. I was curious – What physically fuelled my ancestors? What food did they make with their hands to feed the mouths of their children? What labour went in to the production of that food? Through my research grew a great love for my heritage in the kitchen. I learned about ancient ingredients, I made more things “from scratch”, I developped basic, money-saving kitchen skills, I cooked old recipes in new ways to suit my dietary beliefs.
I often hear people say “Oh Ireland (or insert Scotland) is not known for their food.” A statement that I know to be un-true having lived and travelled extensively in that part of the world! Chances are, if you live in North America/are of Irish or UK heritage, food you eat on the regular has origins that can be traced back to that part of the world…. And I’m not talking about bacon buttys or fish n chips!
Porridge? You bet. Your grandma’s specialty stew? Yep. Mashed Potatoes? Definitely. Shepherd’s Pie? Yes. Fresh seafood? Oh yeah. Smoked seafood. Heck yeah. Cabbage, Parsnips, Rhubarb, Apples, Berries, Barley, Oats, Cheese? Yeah, all those too. Whiskey & Guinness. Duh!
Regardless of your heritage, the very essence of a heritage kitchen is seasonal, local ingredients, prepared simply and backed with the love and nourishment of the ages.
I once thought archaeology was the most tangible way of experiencing history. But I think that food is perhaps the most hands-on way of connecting with our past. Growing, producing, cooking and baking food are all active ways of recreating the past.
So if you haven’t already, delve into your own food heritage, dig up those tattered family recipes, ask your grandma what her grandma made. You just might re-discover some old favourites and don’t be surprised if you serve it up with a new-found sense of identity and pride.