What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes

Irish history, folklore and all that

What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes photo

This coming Sunday marks the celebration of the life of St. Patrick, the bishop who brought Christianity to Ireland some time in the early 400s. And if you eat at all on St. Paddy’s day (Guinness doesn’t count), you’re likely to encounter a certain little tuber that’s practically synonymous with the Emerald Isle. Without the potato, there would be no colcannon, no Irish stew, no shepherd’s pie, and certainly no McDonald’s fries to dip in your Shamrock Shake at the shameful end of the night. But the potato, like the Catholic Church, is an import to Eire—potatoes are actually Peruvian, from thousands of years back, and didn’t make their way to Irish soil until the late 1600s.

Which raises the question: What was Irish food like for the 1500 years between Patrick and potatoes?

The short answer is: milky. Every account…

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