What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes (2024)

What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes (bonappetit.com)
195 points by vinnyglennon on Oct 16, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 170comments
What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes (1)

In Scandinavia, which is nearly as potato-heavy as Ireland, turnips were a primary staple crop before the potato came around, so much so that in much of the world the rutabaga, a large version of the turnip, is known as a "swede". I would be surprised if this was not the case in pre-1600s Ireland as well.

FWIW, in nearby Scotland "neeps and tatties" (turnips & potatoes) is still the canonical accompaniment to haggis.

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yesbabyyes on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


> the rutabaga, a large version of the turnip, is known as a "swede".

And "rutabaga" is from "rotabagge", the dialectal word for turnip in the region of Småland, from where the majority of Swedish immigrants to North America came (over 1 million Swedes emigrated to North America in the second half of the 19th century).

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celticninja on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


I knew what a swede was and had heard the term rutabaga, just never knew they were the same thing.

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fho on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Germany chiming in ... We have something that is called "Rote Beete" (eng: beet root) which sounds similar to "rotabagge" (eng: rutabaga), but apparently is a different plant.

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yesbabyyes on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


It sounds alike but is different. The vegetable has the same name in Swedish, rödbeta (literally red beet, which makes sense since it's deeply red).

Rotabagge is something like "root bug", but where the bagge/bug part is more like an old/dialectal word for "lump", I think.

Edit: "bagge" is likely to have the same root (no pun intended) as bag. After looking up a few of these different roots on wiktionary, it could be that the have common roots but have just been mashes up through the millenia. The etymology seems unclear,and they have similar enough gibberish names in lots of different languages (beterraba, beterraga, etc).

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RandallBrown on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


And here I thought Småland was just a cute name for the kids area at Ikea.

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fifilura on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


It is actually somewhat suitable. Not only because "små" means small in swedish.

But also because the 1800s version of the ball-pit consisted of lots of round pebbles, put there particularly in Småland by some evil ice-sheet-wielding mastermind, that the kids played with by carrying them from the barren Smålandish fields.

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yesbabyyes on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Actually, it's kind of the other way around: IKEA, and Ingvar Kamprad, its founder, are from Småland. He started selling matches as a young boy (connecting to another Swedish business empire of yore, Swedish Match and its founder Ivar Kreuger).

IKEA is an acronym: Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd. Elmtaryd was the Kamprad family farm and Agunnaryd is the nearby village.

My father-in-law is from the very same area in Småland as Kamprad, and they were born the same year.

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dustintrex on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


TIL!

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riedel on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


In Germany some less digestible Inulin rich roots were also commonly used before the potatoe became ubiquitous like the Jerusalem Artichoke (which also was imported like potatoes). Now they are mostly used to produce alcohol. Scorzonera are still quite popular.

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_nalply on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


I cook them once a year. They taste good but it's a pain to peel away the black and tacky skin.

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noneeeed on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Oh, my goodness, the whole turnip/swede thing has always confused me, but never enough to investigate as I don't eat them very often.

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silisili on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Rather interesting, I remember reading that humans could generally survive off a diet of only milk and potatoes years ago. Of course sarcastically I immediately thought 'mashed potatoes are a superfood then.'

Can't find the exact source now, but this one will do -https://www.straightdope.com/21343924/could-i-survive-on-not...

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dghughes on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


I find it amazing that Ireland would be eating a plant from the west coast of an isolated mountainous region of South America less than 100 years after Europeans went there. Even things like oranges and bananas were rare in the late 1800s early 1900s in the US and Canada.

It's amazing how much of food from the Americas mostly central and southern is normal everyday food. What would we all be eating if the Americas went undiscovered until recently?

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deaddodo on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


Ireland specifically switched to potatoes as a part of the tenant farming system the British instituted on the Island and its desire throughout Europe combined with the necessity to grow enough food to feed themselves off the product.

Pre-Colombian exchanges, Ireland mostly ate oats/grains, a small variety of veggies and fruits, dairy goods (cheese and milk), meats (cattle and sheep) and a lot of fish. You can still see a bit of this variety in certain areas like Howth in Dublin and the less touched western towns.

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EdwardDiego on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Yep, the potato was favoured for the ability to grow enough food to feed your family on the sh*tty scraps of ground your absentee landlords "allowed" you to keep.

In a similar vein, the potato revolutionised Māori inter-tribal warfare when introduced to Aotearoa New Zealand (possibly more so than the musket), as you could grow far more calories from the same soil with potatoes than the traditional kūmara/sweet potato - and they kept far better than kūmara while on the move.

This allowed for longer campaigning against opposing tribes, which led to widespread mass migrations to escape enemy tribes - hence why the area now occupied by Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau, our largest city, was mostly depopulated when Europeans started settling it.

And of course, those mass migrations led to more conflicts.

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Jensson on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Yeah, as a rule of thumb potato and rice can feed twice as many people compared to wheat or other crops. Europe had neither so the potato was an instant hit since the alternative was to starve.

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Spooky23 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


The other factor is that potatoes can be concealed easily, so when armies swept through to seize food, you’d keep your potatoes and not starve.

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dghughes on Oct 21, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


But you said you slipped and fell on it...

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dghughes on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


My ancestors left Ireland only to arrive in Canada to the same system of absentee landlords i.e. the British who took nearly everything from tenants, the farmers.

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EdwardDiego on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Well, a staple food of the native people of New Zealand was a sweet potato originating from South America, they brought it with them in the 13th century when settling NZ from 'Hawaiki', their ancestral homeland that is thought to be either the Cook or Society Islands.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e4/Chronolo...

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juki on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


This comes up surprisingly often on HN, but there isn't really anything surprising about it. The whole reason Europeans went to the Americas was to bring back things to be sold in European markets. They might have been a bit disappointed when potatoes turned out to be so easy to grow in European climates that there was no money to be made by importing them, though.

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Gustomaximus on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


> bananas were rare in the late 1800s early 1900

My father in law born in Norway in 1950s can remember getting excited because the store had these bananas he'd heard about. He ate his first one with the skin and didn't think they were so great.

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Symbiote on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


British children in the 1940s were familiar enough with bananas that they missed them during WW2 [1]. Import was banned during the war because the refrigerated ships were needed elsewhere (and the voyage was risky), but resumed in the early 1950s (?). They were widely imported from the 1880s up until WW2 [2], but I'm not sure how often the typical person would eat one.

(And I don't know how much of this British Empire trade would have spread to Ireland.)

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/03/a2734...

[2] https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/11486/RSCAS_2009...

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thriftwy on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


A signature plant for south of Russia/Ukraine, an eastern europe speciality, is also a new world plant: Sunflower.

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pvaldes on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


And there are lots of foods to discover still in the mountains of tropical areas

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stephenhuey on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Bread and pasta, perhaps?

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hn_throwaway_99 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Though that pasta would be pretty bland without any tomato sauce!

Also weird to think that, as much as many people associate tomatoes with Italy, they were also brought from the Americas.

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thaumasiotes on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


> Though that pasta would be pretty bland without any tomato sauce!

You'd use onions and garlic. Those are both still massively popular today.

Cheese, garlic, and oil are all staples for flavoring pasta, and none of them rely on a new world crop.

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vram22 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


And cheese and garlic are used with bread too.

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amatic on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Carbonara, though. Pasta, eggs, bacon, cheese and pepper. Pigs, cows and wheat came with the first farmers, some 6k years ago. Chicken around 2k years ago, but they could have used other eggs. Pepper much later, silk road trade. I imagine they could have had something like carbonara a long time ago.

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igouy on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


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ImprovedSilence on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


All good thoughts. I think Italy has the soil and weather for goood tomatoes though, so it took off. That said, I think most sauces in Italy are not tomato based. Simple things like Oil and salt is pretty common on pasta (and VERY tasty if u ask me). But to the point, yeah, bread, pasta, and olive oil…

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igouy on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


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axiolite on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


> Though that pasta would be pretty bland without any tomato sauce!

Fettuccine alfredo.

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zeckalpha on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


> Created by Alfredo di Lelio I (1882–1959)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fettuccine_Alfredo

Many things we assume Italians ate forever are relatively new: Brocollini, Tiramisu, Ciabatta were all created in the 20th century.

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MandieD on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


A lot of HN (myself included) is older than ciabatta (1982!)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciabatta

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axiolite on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


From your link: "Serving fettuccine with butter and cheese was first mentioned in a 15th-century recipe"

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fy20 on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


> There was drinking milk, and buttermilk, and fresh curds, and old curds, and something called "real curds," and whey mixed with water to make a refreshing sour drink

This sounds a lot like Lithuania today. If you go into most supermarkets the milk products section is usually bigger than the produce section.

They also like potatoes. Usually served with milk products...

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weatherlight on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Guess which country is tied for dead last. (Lactose intolerance)

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/lactose-i...

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hn_throwaway_99 on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


Wow, expected to see those other Northern European countries up at the top of the lactose tolerance list, but was surprised to see Niger. Googling brought up some interesting data on how lactase persistence was selected for in Africa.

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chrisco255 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


The lists are based on intolerance not tolerance, so the top list is inverted. This depicts the percentage of each population that is lactose intolerant, so Denmark and Ireland are among the top countries in the world for lactose tolerance:

Denmark - 4%Ireland - 4%Sweden - 7%United Kingdom - 8%New Zealand - 10%Netherlands - 12%Norway - 12%Niger - 13%Belgium - 15%Cyprus - 16%

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Daub on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Ireland is also the world leader in Coeliac disease.

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spurgu on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Quite surprised Finland isn't in the top 10, it has similar historical importance here.

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boomboomsubban on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


The source for that page has a much better layout, and shows Finland at 12th. There seems to be a separate lactose intolerance that also affects people starting when they are infants and it's most common in Finland.

https://milk.procon.org/lactose-intolerance-by-country/

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secondcoming on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


I thought it might be Viking related, but Norway has three times the levels of intolerance as Denmark.

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3np on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


I always wrote it down to generally large intake of fresh milk and dairy. Norway has more mountains and less pastures compared to Denmark and Sweden.

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intrepidhero on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Wait, Rowanberries are edible?

> Rowan fruit contains sorbic acid, and when raw also contains parasorbic acid (about 0.4%-0.7% in the European rowan[15]), which causes indigestion and can lead to kidney damage, but heat treatment (cooking, heat-drying etc.) and, to a lesser extent, freezing, renders it nontoxic by changing it to the benign sorbic acid. They are also usually too astringent to be palatable when raw.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowan

Oh, only kinda.

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quickthrower2 on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


Like beans that need to be cooked and processed carefully before consumption.

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tvb12 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Beans have to be carefully processed? I soak them in a half-gallon Ball jar for at least a day, but that's pretty much it. I usually swap the water out a few times because I procrastinate pretty badly when it comes to cooking and the water gets murky after half a day or so. If I haven't cooked them by the next morning I toss them in the fridge so that they don't start smelling sour.What have I been neglecting to do, and when should I expect it to kill me?

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sbierwagen on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


>cooking

That's all you need. Thorough cooking deactivates the phytohaemagglutinin, which otherwise would give you a bad time https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytohaemagglutinin

>Poisoning can be induced from as few as five raw beans, and symptoms occur within three hours, beginning with nausea, then vomiting, which can be severe and sustained (profuse), followed by diarrhea.

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billfruit on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Another issue might be that the water used for soaking, will froth up, and start to smell bad. This happens if it is let standing for longer than 12 hours usually.

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dunham on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Just certain varieties are toxic if not properly cooked. I think red kidney beans are one of them.

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cheese_goddess on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Why is everyone constantly tossing (or banging etc) things when they're cooking? I'm usually very careful with my cooking ingredients and handle them delicately and with calm, measured motions. I'm especially careful when I'm chopping up things with a small cleaver or a very big knife, say, or when I'm frying things. I would never dare "bang" something in the oven (as I've seen a few recipes instruct).

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lathiat on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


When I think of beans I just think botulism. But that's more to do with preserving them, not sure this within a day or two cooking method applies there. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/home-canning-an...

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loonster on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Reheating to 176F for 10 minutes (or 185F for 5m) will deactivate the botulinum toxin.

This won't kill the botulism spores, just the toxin that can kill you.

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nanomonkey on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Actually the lacto-fermentation process that you're starting to do to the beans is great for getting rid of the phytic acid and other "anti-nutrients". Just rinse them and add clean water before cooking them. Tossing in a teaspoon of baking soda will off set any acid produced from the process which might cause the beans to remain too firm while cooking.

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pvaldes on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Yes, they are poisonous raw. Not a real problem because they are swallowed will go out again entire but you can't made bread from beans without a lot of troubles

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zoomablemind on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Somehow I remember that Rowan fruits taste more palatable (even sweteer) after the first frosty week.

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Tagbert on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Other fruits are like that. In North America, the native persimmon is highly astringent and inedible until after the first frost and then it becomes very sweet.

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pvaldes on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


There were even selected for that, but we talk about a different species Sorbus domestica that is like a small pear. Sorbus aucuparia is the wild one.

Both edible if processed, domestica is cultured by its fruit but pears are better, so is rare nowadays unless you live in a very cold place.

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ramesh31 on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


The population of Ireland was actually greater in 1840 than it is today [0]. It's hard to overstate just what a catastrophic event the potato famine was.

[0] https://www.mapspictures.com/ireland/history/ireland_populat...

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cyocum on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


For those who want more on this topic, you will want to read Early Irish Farming by Fergus Kelly (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/462769441) and Early Medieval Ireland, AD 400-1100 by Aidan O'Sullivan, et al. (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1257790078).

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helsinkiandrew on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


I thought that all Northern European food has been highly milk based for thousands of years, hence the Roman insult of "Butter eaters":

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/history-of-milkhttps://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28532968

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igammarays on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


Also: It was butter, the Japanese thought, which made Europeans so peculiarly rank: bata-kusai they called them (using the English word for the foul substance): “butter-stinkers." The terms Bata-kusai, “stinking of butter,” is still a derogatory term for things obnoxiously Western.

> http://www.webexhibits.org/butter/countries-japan.html

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WalterBright on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


People smell like what they eat. People who eat the same stuff you do, don't notice that you smell.

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maxerickson on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Europeans also tend to have more apocrine sweat glands than Asians.

https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/body-odor-asia...

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loonster on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


I used to work with a very obese man doing blue collar work. When he sweats, he smelled like a deep frier.

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biofox on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Well... now I feel extremely self conscious.

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jasonhansel on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


> As traditional as it seems, the Irish Soda Bread that you might be trundling out this weekend wasn't invented until 19th century, since baking soda wasn't invented until the 1850s.

Interesting fact: prior to the development of baking soda, ammonium (specifically, ammonium carbonate) was a commonly used leavening agent for cookies and crackers. It was obtained by distilling ground-up deer antlers, giving it the traditional name "salt of hartshorn".

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tummybug on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


I'm Irish, there still exists a lot of pride for potatoes here. I have a small allotment here as part of a communal garden and each spring there is probably more excitement about the potatoes crops than any other. People want to know what types you are planting, how early to put them down, tips for managing damage from a late frost etc. Not to mention it really is a productive crop and really can last all winter when stored correctly and you can be self sufficient for "spuds" from a relatively small sized plot.

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chrisseaton on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


You have a potato theme park don’t you?

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knolan on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


It’s a potato crisp (US:chip) theme park.

https://taytopark.ie/

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xor99 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Tayto was the first/one of to infuse the flavour into the crisp (US:chip). Before that there were little salt packets that you sprinkled. The guy who invented the process was nicknamed "Spud" Murphy.

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throwawaymanbot on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Floury Irish potato varieties are among the best in the world. Once you taste them you can’t go back to waxy potatoes.

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webwielder2 on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


I read in the book 1493 that the Irish were basically the healthiest Europeans post-potato and pre-famine because potatoes+milk is as nutritionally complete a diet as you could find.

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jamil7 on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


> because potatoes+milk is as nutritionally complete a diet as you could find.

That can’t be true.

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Linosaurus on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


You'd need some added restraints to make it possibly plausible. 'Best among affordable 2-food diets', maybe. Which is quite different.

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TheSpiceIsLife on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


If we limit the scope to macronutriens it is indeed correct.

If you could choose only one food to eat, potatoes would be a wise choice. Every other single food will cause you to become deficient much more quickly.

Disclosure: studied nutritional medicine

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chrisco255 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


No, ruminant meat such as beef or steak or even fatty fish such as salmon is a far more complete source of nutrition. Pre-agricultural humans lived almost exclusively on meat for hundreds of thousands of years. Potatoes lack certain essential nutrients meat does not, such as Vitamin D, Vitamin K, heme iron, zinc, omega 3s, etc.

Our bodies are highly adapted and evolved for meat only diets: https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-2-million-years-humans-ate...

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Tagbert on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


You seem to be ignoring the “gatherer” half of “hunter-gatherer”. I’ve seen no widespread acceptance that pre-agricultural people ate only meat. They would have eaten a large number of plants, nuts, roots, fruits as well as insects and anything else they could find. You can find this in coprolites preserved in habitable caves.

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chrisco255 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


No, the name hunter-gatherer does not imply that 50% of the calories were obtained from plants.

I linked to an article explaining that point, which includes the source and evidence.

Especially during the deep glacial periods of the ice age, which was most of the last 1 million years, humans sustained themselves almost entirely on meat.

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barry-cotter on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Most hominids during most of this period lived outside Northern Eurasia and would have had ample motivation and opportunity to eat plant foods. If you were talking about Neanderthals you would have a point.

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TheSpiceIsLife on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


When you say “meat” you probably mean all the edible parts of an animal, organs meat.

Then I would probably agree.

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rsj_hn on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Yeah, when we talk of traditional societies eating meat, it wasn't just ribeye and potatoes. Liver, bone marrow, brains -- all of that was consumed and these contain a lot of nutrition that you don't replicate with a steady diet of filet mignon. It's a shame how Americans no longer eat liver.

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NoImmatureAdHom on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Yep.

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i_am_proteus on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Better potatoes than the flesh of a pastured ruminant?

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rffrancon on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


"They did eat meat, of course, though the reliance on milk meant that beef was a rarity"

I find that hard to believe. Cows need to be pregnant to milk. Roughly half of their calves would be male. Which were primarily valuable as meat. Further, cows produce more milk than their calves require, which means calves could be matured.

Beef was probably proportionally as prevalent as diary.

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praxulus on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


You can only mature the calves if you can spare the milk, and you get a lot more calories from just drinking the milk.

A cow produces roughly 40 times more calories worth of milk over its lifetime than you get from the beef from one animal. There's no way it would be similarly prevalent unless they were raising herds specifically for beef.

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rffrancon on Oct 21, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


> You can only mature the calves if you can spare the milk, and you get a lot more calories from just drinking the milk.

Perhaps in the short term. But after 10 weeks calves exclusively eat grass. And after a year on grass the riginal 10 week dairy calorie investment is dwarfed by the beef fat calories produced.

I think it comes down to land costs and labour costs. Most Irish land is only suitable for livestock. Rough grassland is cheap. And hand milking is labor intensive. The Dexter cattle breed originated in Ireland, is suitable for both dairy and beef, and is tough enough for harsh conditions. Scaling up on beef male cattle makes sense if the grassland is available.

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watwut on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


That 0.5 calve per cow would amount to rare. Plus, meat is prseved in form of sausage or dry meat - not steak or raw form.

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Lio on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


> though the reliance on milk meant that beef was a rarity

Something fishy about that statement.

Here’s the thing about cows, they cone in two sexes.

If you drink a lot of milk you’ve got to keep a lot of cows pregnant. You only need a few bulls that.

That means you got to do something with the male calves you don’t need for milk and don’t want to feed.

They don’t magically disappear. They either eat them as veal calves (minus the crate) or eat them as bullocks.

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i_am_proteus on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


Male cattle were castrated and used as draught animals ("oxen") in many European societies.

Either way, dairy cattle and draught cattle would get butchered and eaten at end of useful life, unless they died of disease. And there was also plenty of cattle raised for food in the areas that had the land for it.

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Spooky23 on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Rich people ate the beef. Usually the normal folks would eat less desired cuts.

Overall, ranching and dairy are almost always two different businesses with different factors.

Chicken and eggs are similar. Traditionally, young chicken was rare as the economics of a traditional farm were such that eating chickens were akin to killing the golden goose. Likewise, keeping beef cattle around consumes a lot of grass that could have made butter.

Another factor to consider that as the British took over, their inheritance laws took over, so farm plots would get divided over time. Large herds became increasingly difficult.

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dekken_ on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


they might have not owned a bull but rented one when needed.

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karatinversion on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


But they still get half their calves with no long term future as dairy cows - so someone will end up eating most of them.

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watwut on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


That would give you the rare meat. No one claims they were vegetarians.

But, if they killed and eate 0.5 young males per cow per year, that would make the meat available once per year per cow. They could dry it or make sausage or whatever, but that does not make it a lot.

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progre on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Good thing, there is this other animal that basically eats garbage and sh*ts fertilizer. The byproduct of this is a surpus of pork a few times a year.

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watwut on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


The claim people take offense for is specifically about beef - not about pork.

But really, at least based on what my grandmother said, meat was luxury item once a week thing. Cooked in away that uses it to the max. They were relatively well off small farm family, they were not poor. The traditional food I read about when I read about historical lifestyles was also largely non-meat. (Not to be confused with vegetarian, like bacon etc was part of it)

The eat meat everyday thing we have going on was not a thing in the past. It requires huge amount of animals being raised and killed, meat to be stored in freezers and so on.

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TheSpiceIsLife on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


How is that a response to the parent comment?

Milking cows need to be having calves regularly so they keep producing milk.

Not owning a bull doesn’t make that problem go away.

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OJFord on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Is that true? I know nothing about the dairy industry, but human wet nurses aren't constantly pregnant so they can do their job, as I understand it production's just a gradual response to the 'request'.

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stormdennis on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Good point, cows are usually "dried out" prior to being impregnated again.

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TheSpiceIsLife on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


True, good point.

It appears you may be right to some extent, but a bit of reading indicates dairy farmers to to have their cows birth a calf every one year to 400 days.

Older practices may vary, haven’t looked in to that.

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phenkdo on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Honest question, not meaning to be offensive or hurtful at all. I know how raw the wounds of the famine are etc.

How do historians objectively - provided there is one - view the British empire's involvement in Ireland over much of the last millennium? Was it particularly repressive vis-a-vis other medieval empires in their dominions/spheres of influence?

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cyocum on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


To help answer your first question, I would recommend reading Gaelic and Gaelicized Ireland in the Middle Ages, 2nd ed. by K. W. Nicholls (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/471778201) and A New History of Ireland, Volume II and III (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/495293791 and http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/299242437 respectively). As for your second question, I am not an expert enough to answer because I tend to study the earlier period before the Norman invasion.

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mkmk on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Not an exact answer, but I heartily endorse the /r/AskHistorians/ subreddit for these types of questions. It is moderated quite differently from the rest of Reddit, and questions like this are answered in-depth. There are several threads on the Irish Potato Famine that may answer a subset of your question.

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Spooky23 on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


It was colonialism, with all of the attributes associated with it. Irish were seen as a lesser people and various phases and the machinery of empire acted appropriately.

IMO it is a similar story to India in many ways. The Brits leveraged and undermined the existing power structure and extracted value at whatever cost deemed appropriate. Was there some “benefit”… at some level yes. Were there atrocities and disgusting levels of suffering without the consent of the governed? Yes.

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uptime on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


There is a very interesting podcast on the Irish/Indian overlap. The Irish themselves are not spotless but there was some support. This duo does well researched stuff and helps a lot if you are interested in Brexit and NI. https://www.theirishpassport.com/podcast/ireland-and-india-a...

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Spooky23 on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Thank you. This is one of those interesting and obscure areas of history. Appreciate the link!

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uyt on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


TIL about "bog butter" and half a dozen other culinary terms that I've never heard of. Maybe for good reasons we don't make these food anymore? (banbidh, old curds, real curds, bainne clabair, sowens, flummery, etc)

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MPSimmons on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


A _lot_ of these things sound like various kinds of cottage cheese, yogurt and cultured butter. I would guess we _do_ make things they might recognize, just with modern standards of cleanliness.

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amyjess on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Also, these are all staples of Indian diets even in modern day: paneer, raita, ghee, etc.

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m0llusk on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Seems more like issues with production and markets. When my parents were growing up on a farm they made butter and sold it at market, but the creme freshe which was a byproduct of the whole process was considered to have no value and they cooked with it because it could not be sold. Now creme freshe is considered a luxury gourmet ingredient for fine cooking and commands a premium. Food fashions vary wildly.

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bobthepanda on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


I imagine the need for bog butter probably declined, in particular due to the advent of refrigerating things.

It turns out that burying things in the fairly cool, temperature-stable, low-oxygen ground is fairly decent at preserving things. Kimchi in Korea was traditionally produced in this manner.

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stan_rogers on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Clabber (bainne clábair) is still going strong, at least where the Ulster Scots washed ashore in the States.

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dustintrex on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Pastoral societies like Mongolia still retain many of these:

http://www.khovsgoldairyproject.org/news/mongolia/dairy-prod...

Iceland also has quite a selection of dairy, with skyr recently becoming trendy.

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chadcmulligan on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


I have vague memories of my (Irish) grandmother making flummery when I was young. It tasted like strawberry mousse or junket iirc.

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irrational on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


I want to seen an article like this for every food culture that is now heavily associated with foods from the Americas. Italy without tomatoes? No chilis? No beans? No corn? Etc. No potatoes means no vodka for the Russians.

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OJFord on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


The Portuguese brought chillies to India from SA, before which they used black pepper for (obviously milder) heat.

That was a bit of a 'mind blown' moment for me when I saw it on Raja, Rasoi, aur apni Kahaaniyaan (kings, kitchens, and their stories^) - quite a nice food/history/culture programme, each episode being a different region in India.

(^to save someone pointing it out, it's actually 'king, kitchen, and his [or its] stories', I just thought that sounded more awkward, and confuses my description of it being a different region, sometimes king, food, culture etc. each episode.)

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hohloma on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Russian vodka is made from wheat.

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irrational on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Really? Now I’m wondering why I thought vodka came from potatoes?

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phonypc on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


You can make vodka from pretty much anything, and there are potato vodkas. Just not the most common.

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raffraffraff on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Indian. Imagine an Indian menu without baigan, aloo, chili peppers or rich tomato based sauces (chana masala).

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dpeck on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Gastropod had a great episode about potatoes that touched on this and a lot of the myths / great man of history stories about the introduction of the potato into Europe. Worth a listen if you’re into food, history, and related topics https://gastropod.com/this-spuds-for-you/

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cheese_goddess on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


> In 1690, one British visitor to Ireland noted that the natives ate and drank milk "above twenty several sorts of ways and what is strangest for the most part love it best when sourest." He was referring to bainne clabair, which translates as "thick milk," and was probably somewhere between just straight-up old milk and sour cream.

Today, "bainne clabair" ("soured milk" according to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clabber_(food)) is called clabber. It's basically a kind of very acidic yogurt made with mesophilic (room temperature) fermentation by the lactic acid bacteria that are naturally present in raw milk. You just leave a jar of raw milk out for the night and in the morning, you enjoy your clabber.

Or get food poisoning, if you're unlucky :P

Edit - you can also make clabber, more safely, with kefir and pasteurised milk. Kefir normally makes a kind of very runny yogurt but, depending on the milk, you can get a very firm yogurt instead. In my experience, non-hom*ogenised milk of good quality (preferrably from grass-fed cows) and, interestingly, UHT milk, clabber well. UHT milk kind of makes more sense: it's already undergone the heat treatment necessary to make yogurt and all it's missing is the acid produced by lactic acid bacteria. Normally, this is done relatively quickly by thermophilic bacteria (Lactobacilus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus) at 45 degrees C, but a longer fermentation at room temperature with mesophilic strains can have the same effect. I, anyway, have made plenty of kefir-clabber this way, and also a few cheeses. If you collect the clabber and drain it in a cheesecloth, you can then form it and even age it. I've aged a couple of (tiny) wheels for up to four months and they were not bad, just a bit strong.

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twobitshifter on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


It’s mentioned in passing but my understanding is that parsnips were much much more popular.

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secondcoming on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


The most famous story about cattle raiding is this one: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Táin_Bó_Cúailnge

(Contains spoilers)

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fouc on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


> McDonald’s fries to dip in your Shamrock Shake

I briefly thought a Shamrock Shake was gonna be gravy flavored. Anyone think a gravy flavored shake could work?

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gaganyaan on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


I think a gravy-flavored shake is just called gravy

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kupopuffs on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Is there ice cream in normal gravy???

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thaumasiotes on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


There's plenty of fat in gravy. There's water. It's served warm, so the water is not ice, but what more do you want?

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beaconstudios on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


> from the 12th century on, there are records of butter flavored with onion and garlic, and local traditions of burying butter in bogs.

> Grains, either as bread or porridge, were the other mainstay of the pre-potato Irish diet

What's your favourite Irish food? Mind's garlic bread.

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jmclnx on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Some ancient roman historians wrote about this diet also. I never saw the full text

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loonster on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Anyone know of a good milk recipe book?

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loonster on Oct 16, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Great read,Thanks.

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malkia on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


from relatively lower carb, to quite the high carb!

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justshowpost on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Wheat, oat and barley?

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pvaldes on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


Plus sea birds, seafood, seals an whales. Americans ate a lot of acorns also, and many europeans did, so maybe irish did the same

And of course lots of rabbits

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andygrd on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


This whole thread is straying very close to a lot of anti-Irish racist tropes.

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nly on Oct 17, 2021 | prev | next [–]


Fun Irish fact: pubs in Ireland are closed on St Patrick's Day.

There's also a variety of delicious, regional potato based products that, until very recently, you won't have found anywhere else but in Ireland. The way boxty is made for instance, is crazy to me.

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rat87 on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


seems outdated

https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/all-pubs-ireland-...

You may be surprised to learn that all the pubs in Ireland used to be closed on St. Patrick's Day, which is now by and large considered a drinking holiday.

Up until the 1970s, Irish law prohibited pubs opening on March 17 as a mark of respect for this religious day. It was feared that leaving the pubs open would be too tempting for some during Lent and would lead to a disrespectful amount of drunkenness on this most solemn day.

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annamargot on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Your fun fact is hilarious from an American perspective. It’s the biggest day for bars and pubs in the US and it’s not close.

It’s funny how Irish culture in America seems so different from its motherland counterpart. Same or more so for Italian. No judgements either way. Just interesting how diaspora cultures evolve

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GeneralTspoon on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


This “fact” isn’t a fact. Pubs aren’t anywhere near closed in Ireland on St. Patrick’s day.

It’s probably the busiest day of the year for them.

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disgruntledphd2 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


So, this was true until the 30's or so.

So it's possible that this was passed down the generations as fact. It's not true any more though.

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basisword on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Only a guess but this would likely have been because St. Patrick’s Day is a “holy day”. People attend church (lots still do although in the last couple of decades it’s declined massively) and closing pubs would be in line with how some other “holy days” are treated. An example of this is Easter in Northern Ireland. There are still some relatively strict licensing laws over the Easter weekend (although these are about to modernise) with pubs sh*t for large parts of it.

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ac29 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


> Your fun fact is hilarious from an American perspective. It’s the biggest day for bars and pubs in the US and it’s not close.

Must be a regional thing. Its not like that where I live, and a quick search suggests both New Years Eve and Thanksgiving Eve are busier days (which matches my experience).

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nly on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Well, just because the pubs are closed it doesn't mean they don't drink.

I'm unsure if it's true, but I've been told one reason racing is popular on St Pats is because the tracks serve alcohol.

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GeneralTspoon on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


This whole thing is nonsense - pubs aren’t closed. And most people aren’t anywhere near a race track on St. Patricks’s Day. Unless they’re in Cheltenham, which is in a different country.

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secondcoming on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


The most obvious difference is that it seems to be called St Patty's Day in the US, for some reason. Nobody in Ireland calls it that.

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DFHippie on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


And people call it St Patrick's day in the US as well.

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Mongey on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


pubs in Ireland are not closed on St. Patricks day.

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another-dave on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


This reminds me of that thing where people read the newspaper & say "wow, I can't believe they got $MY_AREA_OF_EXPERTISE so wrong" but then turn the page & take in other stories as if they were gospel truth.

Next time someone tells me a fun fact about another country I shall remember the 'closed pubs' of Ireland on Paddy's Day!

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nly on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Yeah, I clearly misremembered/mistrusted what my partner (Irish) told me and paid the karma cost :) Oh well.

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tough on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


> "wow, I can't believe they got $MY_AREA_OF_EXPERTISE so wrong"

Gell-Mann amnesia effect

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dingaling on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


We need a name for the effect wherein people will believe that something exists just because someone gave their unsupported theory a catchy name.

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another-dave on Oct 18, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


Thanks, that's it — can never remember the name!

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john-n on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Not sure where you got this from, but this is entirely incorrect.

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raffraffraff on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


Probably confused it with Good Friday, another big day on the Catholic calendar.

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paleotrope on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Potato pancakes? Those seem pretty common around the world.

I looked up some recipes and I am not sure I understand what it considered special about them.

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implements on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


It’s a good way to use potato and flour, and makes a nice breakfast fried in butter alongside an egg.

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spacec0wb0y on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


Yes, and no turkeys are consumed at thanksgiving and no music is played at mardi gras.

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This continuing to propagate this stereotype is offensive to Irish people, such as myself. Why was this allowed to get posted here, Dang?

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fenderbluesjr on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | next [–]


I'm Irish.. what is offensive about it? Potatoes are a big part of our culinary history

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stanford_labrat on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


I’m Irish as well…my family’s food joke is that nothing grows in Ireland except: milk, fish, and potatoes (and meat, if you’re lucky!)

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eropple on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


My family's includes rocks. Lots of rocks grow there.

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vram22 on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | next [–]


I'm not Irish, but Irish friends tell me that tons of air grows there too. In fact, that may be while it is called Eire.

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raffraffraff on Oct 17, 2021 | root | parent | prev | next [–]


I don't get it either, and I'm also Irish (born here, lives here all my life)

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ninechars on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


I'm Irish. I didn't know this stuff. I found it interesting. Calm down kid.

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lljk_kennedy on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev | next [–]


I think you’ll be hard pressed to find an Irish person who’d be offended at this… I thought it was a great read (as an Irish person).

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pvaldes on Oct 17, 2021 | parent | prev [–]


An historical fact is just a fact. There is not point in being outraged by the truth that Irish (as many other places) eat lots of some particular food.

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