Irish fusion food for St Patrick’s Day

 For generations, the words “vegetarian” and “Irish” “were an oxymoron as a diet of choice as distinct from grim necessity . Today in a country where food standards have become more ambitious but remain notoriously uneven, Denis Cotter from Cork does the revisionist thing, to graft new ideas upon tradition for the Guardian.

 In a country that spent much of the last few hundred years in poverty, it’s a bit rich expecting us to have concocted a food culture that would stand up as a coherent cuisine. As a vegetarian chef, there is even less for me to cling on to.

Far from seeing this as a disadvantage, however, I’ve always seen this absence of a strong food tradition as an opportunity to create a new, modern culture unburdened by the need to look over our shoulders or to feel the weight of past masters’ eyes on how we work. I have long argued that, when it comes to food, Ireland is a New World country, with all the freedom that gives us to import ideas and make them our own.

There has been a massive food revolution in Ireland over the last 20 years or so. It may have started with a hunger for imported ingredients and dishes, but it gradually morphed into something rooted in the best aspects of a culture, place and people.


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  • Zig70

    Don’t agree with the oxymoron. The traditional Irish diet didn’t have much meat. Special occasions etc. My Da says he would have typically got meat once a month.
    Baked beans on fry’s here does my head in.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Baked beans on fry’s here does my head in.”


  • Was it Peig Sayers or an t-Athair Peadar who was quizzed by the evil English landlord about how often s/he had meat? The answer was once a year.

    Good Irish traditional food is fine as is all others. Blow in pretend food with celebrity chefs just makes cheap tv. In that connection, I found the Aussies eating out in the many ethnic restaurants of Sydney to be lost, soulless souls. I once went with visiting Turkish friends into a Turkish restaurant. They thought it was hilarious: student food at sky high prices and the posoer punters not knowing any different. Another time, I went early into an Afghan restauarant; the guy switched off the rock music he was listening to and put on the requisite trad tape.

    Food is the brandy of the damned.

  • Rory Carr

    As a St Patrick’s Day treat my English wife served me up thick-cut peppercorn steak with a Green salad. We had Key Lime Pie to follow. And me off the booze for nigh on eighteen months, it’s assured of Heaven I am where I hope they still serve lashings of spuds.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Rory ,
    It was bleached lettuce and “stuff” wasn’t it?

  • John Ó Néill

    Rory – have you not inducted her into the traditional agnosticism that used to revolve around St Patricks Day? If you abstained from something for Lent (or longer), for some reason that didn’t/doesn’t apply on St Patricks Day (i.e. some sort of chips, not salad – and a pint of Guinness and/or Bush chaser on the side, obviously).

  • Mark McGregor


    My wife does that nonsense too (I’m not a believer so Lent means nothing to me and St Paddy’s is a ‘national’ not religious day). I’ll buy into it if it applies to cigarettes though!