Boy do the Irish love their potatoes. Embarking on my recent Ireland adventure, I knew that the food scene there would be largely meat and potatoes. I just didn’t realize how prevalent the potato would be in literally every meal of the day.
Granted, my view is from the tourist perspective, where I was eating the provided hotel breakfast or dining out for other meals. So I admit that it is entirely possible that in the average local home, the potato is not the same prevalent meal accessory. However, judging from the locals that I interacted with, I think it is safe to say that they love their spuds.
The “full Irish breakfast” served at the hotels and most cafes consists of 2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, 2 pieces of ham, 2 pieces of blood sausage, toast, tomatoes, and, you guessed it, potatoes. You will see potatoes at lunch and dinner as well, whether they are embedded in a thick and hearty Beef and Guinness Stew (delicious!), mashed on top of that same stew, or served as chips (aka fries) on the side. Order a pasta dish or rice dish, and you will often get a plate of chips on the side.
It’s no wonder the potato famine devastated this wee island, I’m not sure they know what else to eat. I am simply amazed that with that high carb and protein intake, though, the country doesn’t struggle with the same obesity epidemic that the US does. Add to that the immense amount of beer consumed, and I am truly puzzled. So being the curious person that I am, I had to delve into this a bit and understand how that is.
Based on my observations, I think it comes down to whole, natural foods, consumption in moderation and moving more. Yes, the Irish consume a lot of meat and potatoes — actually a lot of lean seafood as well, fishing is a huge industry there as it is an island after all. However, they don’t consume much processed food at all, you don’t see people snacking on crisps (aka chips) or the like, I’m not sure I ever saw a local drinking a soda, you rarely see people indulging in sweets, and, while there is a McDonald’s in Dublin, fast food is a rarity there and drive-thrus simply don’t exist. (By the way, I find these statements to be true of every European country I have visited thus far.)
Society moves at a slower pace, meal time is a social event that is savored and shared with friends and family. Food is not something you pick up at a drive-thru and eat behind the wheel. The meals served in the pubs are typically locally sources and very fresh. Drink is consumed slowly, the purpose being not to get drunk but to enjoy a good time with the company you’re in. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful world to live in?
Finally, people walk a lot more, particularly in the larger cities. You won’t see massive supermarkets with overflowing parking lots and customers jockeying for the closest parking spot. Instead, shops are smaller and typically only have street parking. Customers typically visit multiple shops to get the provisions they need (i.e., butcher, fresh produce, bakery), walking between the shops and parking only once or using mass transit.
It dawned on me, that these principles — whole foods, consumption in moderation, moving more — are exactly what I have tried to follow and promote as part of my healthy lifestyle. As innovative as we Americans are, maybe there’s a lesson here that we can take from our old world counterparts. What do you think?
Roasted Red Potato and Langostino Chowder
Recipe by Colleen Fields
This creamy – yet creamless – chowder is full of red potatoes, roasted to bring out a smoky, sweet flavor, and tender, buttery langostino tails. It’s guilt free deliciousness at it’s best!
Yield: 4 Servings