Celebrating The Irish….And The History Of “Green”

Green eggs…in celebration of St. Patrick's Day

Green eggs…in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day – green tinged foods may be fun for Americans; however, the color harkens to a darker time for the Irish

My family enjoys gathering and celebrating… St. Patrick’s Day was one of our mother’s favorite days to bring us together, (she regularly reminded us that she was one-quarter Irish).

These days, my sister and niece alternate hosting the dinner.  This year, our Sammycakes surprised us with these utterly delicious deviled eggs…colored green. The yolk /filling was soooo silky smooth and perfectly seasoned – I could have consumed a dozen (I stopped at 4).

Seeing these made me wonder why green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day.  In doing a little research, I discovered this interesting blog post written by Maria Godoy, at NPR’s The Salt food blog, where the history of the great Irish famine and the correlation to green foods are described…

The Irish celebrate their patron saint on March 17, green food has bitter connotations that recall the nation’s darkest chapter, says historian Christine Kinealy.

The reason, Kinealy explains, is the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, which forced so many Irish to flee mass starvation in their homeland in search of better times in America and elsewhere. Those who stayed behind turned to desperate measures.

“People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass,” Kinealy tells The Salt. “In Irish folk memory, they talk about people’s mouths being green as they died.”

At least 1 million Irish died in the span of six years, says Kinealy, the founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Which is why, for an Irishwoman like Kinealy, who hails from Dublin and County Mayo, the sight of green-tinged edibles intended as a joyous nod to Irish history can be jolting, she says.”   From The Salt, NPR blog, post written by Maria Godoy.

The “wearing of the green” is associated to the “shamrock” and various Irish historic activities which are said to have begun around 1640.  The 3 leafed shamrock referenced the Catholic holy trinity, later “the green” was adopted by the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick.  The holiday is celebrated on March 17 as that is the recognized death day of St. Patrick. Originally it was a religious feast day and has extended into being a celebration day of Irish culture.

While many Irish are somewhat bemused by how joyous the American’s have made St. Patty’s Day, most celebrate and have embraced much of American’s enthusiasm.

A few additional facts about the Irish…they consume more tea per capita than any other recorded population.  Irish breakfast tea is the type of strong black tea that holds up well to milk and is one of my favorites — particularly with a scone or Irish soda bread.  Each year, I make my mom’s Irish soda bread recipe…as doing so, I am flooded with great memories of making dozens of loaves with her.  A favorite remembrance for me is toasting the leftover bread and slathering it with butter the next morning.   Below is this year’s effort.  I bake my soda bread in a soufflé dish we received as a wedding gift a couple decades ago.  It makes a beautiful, rustic-looking loaf.  What’s wonderful about this bread is that it takes about 15 minutes to put together…It’s a quick bread!

Tea With Betty's Irish soda bread…baked in my favorite soufflé dish…using Irish…grass fed…Kerrygold butter of course :-)

Tea With Betty’s Irish soda bread…baked in my favorite soufflé dish…using Irish…grass fed…Kerrygold butter of course 🙂

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2 Comments

  1. I always assumed the green food was because of Ireland being known as the Emerald Isle, I didn’t know about the grass eating, which is pretty harrowing stuff. Using a souffle dish to make soda bread is something I’ve never seen before, your bread looks delicious.

  2. Yes…as I think about it, I always thought the green was an extension of the same as you…the Emerald Isle.. and possibly it is another reason for the “green” and in thinking about it, probably a more plausible one for why American’s use it to celebrate. We actually “wear” more green than “eat” green on St. Patty’s Day…it might be prudent for me to extend my research further. Also..yes, who would have thought that a clay dish is something to bake bread in…I have used this dish for over 20 years with the best results…it’s become rather a traditional sized loaf for us now. As always Lorna…thanks for your comment.