Foods in Ireland
Although there is a wide choice of foods in modern Ireland, there are distinct and unique Irish foods. There is also variation from region to region, and between different social groups, but the historical, archaeological, and folkloric records indicate that Irish people ate substantial amounts of bread, eggs, bacon, potatoes, cabbage, root vegetables, seasonal berries, oatmeal, and dairy products.
Within Ireland, there are local food variations; the blaa, a type of bread, is extremely popular in county Waterford but not well-known elsewhere. Other foods are worthy of mention. Wild garlic was commonly gathered as flavouring for Irish dishes. The common stinging nettle forms the basis of a popular soup; once regarded as a food for the poor, it has made its way onto restaurant menus in recent decades.
Coastal communities also relied on the sea. Seals, seabirds, fish, and seaweed were widely gathered, with the currach – a boat that is unique to the west coasts of Ireland and of Scotland – central to this exercise. This ancient boat remains in use today for fishing and ferrying people and goods. Indeed, the tradition has undergone somewhat of a revival in recent years. Although there are not many full-time currach builders, West Clare Currachs and Meitheal Mara in Cork continue the tradition. In January 2012, artist and boat-builder Mark Redden launched two hand-crafted currachs into the Irish Sea as part of a special project highlighting the ancient craft of boat building.
Fish, particularly smoked salmon, is often regarded as part of the Irish diet. The Galway Oyster Festival is now a major tourist attraction, drawing in crowds from Ireland and beyond. There are a number of smokehouses producing smoked salmon, including the Connemara Smokehouse and the Ummera Smokehouse in West Cork.
Other cultures have influenced the food that is eaten in Ireland. Olives, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, are widely available. Food stalls and markets serve up Middle-Eastern street food such as falafel, while Polish shops sell ingredients for foods like bigos (a stew of sauerkraut and meat), and Japanese and Korean restaurants are popular for their sushi. Successful Irish restaurants, including the Michelin starred Chapter One in north central Dublin, or Thornton’s in south central Dublin, regularly feature influences from traditional French and Irish cuisine.
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