I received Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen for Winter Solstice this year. It had been on my wish list for awhile, so I was really excited to get it. I’m enjoying it immensely! While there are, of course, many meat-based dishes, there are a surprising number of vegetarian recipes too! Some non-vegetarian dishes are easy to change – it’s just a matter of swapping broth. If I get really creative, I’m sure I could experiment with using homemade seitan too…
One reason I added this to my wish list is because reviews praised its inclusion of history and culture in addition to recipes. So far, I’m not disappointed. Guest food historians add context to the recipes, and excerpts from a variety of food manuscripts provide further insight. There are recipes representing various generations and social classes. There are comforting, affordable farm recipes, foods that require French techniques expected by the rich Anglo-Irish landowners, and (much to my delight), recipes inspired by trade with India. What is considered traditional changes with each generation, after all. I’m also enjoying the bits of Irish language included. As I read this book, I’m not just browsing recipes – I’m exploring an important part of my ancestral culture. From just my grandfather’s research, I had poor farmer ancestors from Munster Co., and Anglo-Irish ancestors from Ulster Co. I really want to explore as much as I can.
I won’t try all of the recipes due to my dietary choices, and certain selections will depend on my ability to procure ingredients that aren’t common to American markets. As I scanned ahead, I noticed a chapter on wild ingredients, which is really exciting but could be challenging. I’ve never cooked with seaweed outside of attempts at Japanese cuisine, for example. We shall see! I hope my readers don’t begrudge my desire to blog about my experiences. Out of respect for the cook book’s author, I will not share the recipes – just my reflections. If you’re as interested in Irish food and culture as I am, I hope you’ll consider purchasing it for yourself!
As it’s winter, starting with some soups seem appropriate! Off to write my grocery list and think about brothchán – broth!