WHAT THE IRISH ATE BEFORE THE COMING OF THE POTATO. Annalisa sent me this article by Sam Dean in Bon Appetit about what the Irish ate before the arrival of the potato in the late 1600’s. They ate a wide variety of dairy products, with one visitor in 1690 noting that they ate or drank milk “above twenty several sorts of ways”. Dean says they had “a cuisine that revolved around banbidh, or ‘white foods.'” Butter was also important. I have posted several times about bog butter, including this post about the taste of bog butter. Dean notes that: “buried bog butter came to be valued for its uniquely boggy flavor.” The climate made wheat growing difficult so oats predominated among the grains. There was a variety of other foods, but because of the importance of milk in the diet, “many British tacticians, sending home notes on how best to suppress local rebellions, noted that the majority of the population lived all summer on their cows’ milk, so the best way to starve out the enemy would just be to kill all the cows.” As I posted here, the potato, in addition to providing more energy to feed the population, reduced the possibility of enemy attacks on the food supply across Europe. Ironically, the value of the potato as a food left the population dependent on the potato crop and led to the tragedy of the 1840’s.
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- Nick: Correction! It’s @mornacale on Twitter. Slight typo.
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