When you go to Ireland, the first thing you will notice is that the culture is definitely food oriented. Almost as soon as you walk into someone’s house, they offer you a cup of tea and something to eat. It makes you feel very welcome as you nibble on a chocolate bar and sip a nice cup of hot tea.
I think the food in Ireland is very tasty and as a result, I’ve been making a conscious effort to go out running most mornings in an effort to balance out all my excessive eating. There is such a variety of food choices, ranging from traditional Irish meals, pub grub, fast food, to ordering Chinese and Indian takeaway.
Traditional Irish food includes: stew, shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, lamb, bangers and mash, steak and kidney pie, sausage rolls, breakfast “fry”, blood pudding (made from pigs blood, barley and seasoning) and champ (mashed potatoes, scallions, butter and milk).
Bread is really popular and there are quite a few different types. Soda bread is a yeast free bread that is bought in “farls” rather than loaves. Potato bread, as the name suggests is made of mostly potato and a small amount of wheat. Wheaten bread is made with whole wheat grains.
Breakfast foods are similar to American breakfast foods. Cereal, pancakes, waffles, eggs and toast are all popular. My favorite breakfast food is a healthier option called Weetabix, which is a whole grain cereal, mixed with milk and warmed up.
When heading out for fast food or a quick dinner on the weekends, most people eat fish and chips, chicken curry or stop by KFC, McDonalds or Burger King. I’ve noticed that anything American is really popular here. In the Victoria Square shopping center there is a TGI Friday’s that is always busy. Although, compared to how pizza in America is pretty much a staple, in Ireland pizza is eaten only once in a while!
On a different note than food, I have witnessed a very curious fashion trend since I’ve been in Belfast. Currently it is very popular to wear the American flag! I have found it really amusing to see girls and boys walking around in t-shirts, denim shorts and jackets with the American flag on them, and also red, white and blue sneakers. But most startling of all, is the leggings with one leg, red and white stripes and the other leg, blue with the stars! I guess it’s similar to the way Americans think it’s cool to wear the British flag (especially young girls who are obsessed with listening to the boy band “One Direction”), but I just find it a bit strange!
Nando’s is an extremely popular Portuguese restaurant in the UK and Ireland. I really wanted to check it out to see what all the fuss was about. It sounded appealing to me because I had heard that the restaurant focuses on chicken recipes and different spices and levels of hotness. I went for dinner with my cousin last week and ordered a medium spicy chicken pita with spicy rice. I have to say, I now understand why it is such a successful and popular place to go and eat. The food was delicious!
Sunday dinner is an important weekly occurrence that is an ingrained part of the culture in Ireland. It usually is served earlier than normal dinner during the week, around 3-5pm. The dinner usually consists of chicken, turkey or ham with mashed potatoes, stuffing, carrots, broccoli (or whatever type of vegetables you fancy) and gravy. I think it is a nice way for families to come together and enjoy a meal each week, especially with how hectic weekdays can be with school and work. Sunday dinners are usually home cooked, but are also served in restaurants and pubs.
I saved the best for last. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget to mention my favorite type of food, the desserts and treats! Chocolate is my absolute weakness and my favorite chocolate bars are Milky Bars, Toffee Crisps, Caramel Cadbury, Lion Bars, Mint Aero, Galaxy chocolate bars and I’m constantly trying new ones. The milk chocolate is to die for, and no offense to Milton Hershey but in my opinion, nothing beats Cadbury’s. While I was waiting for the bus the other day, I noticed an advertisement at the bus stop. It was a picture of a Galaxy McFlurry sold at McDonalds… so I decided I had to try one. The next day when I was walking about the town, I stopped into McDonalds and treated myself to one. It was soooo yummy! It was even better than my all time favorite, the Oreo McFlurry back in the States. Other popular desserts include: trifle (jello, with whipped cream and custard), cream buns, swiss rolls, shortbread cookies, German biscuits and more, usually served with tea, coffee or Irish coffee (coffee with whiskey and cream).
Sometimes it can gets a bit confusing when talking about food in Ireland. Although the Irish speak English, at times it can seem like a different language because of the accent and the fact that they call things different names than we do in America. Here are just a few examples… the Irish call French fries, chips, but when Americans say chips, they mean potato chips, which the Irish call ‘crisps’. Ketchup is red sauce; Sprite is lemonade; a biscuit is a cookie; sambo is the Irish vernacular for sandwich… and the list goes on!
As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of the food in Ireland. Each day brings an opportunity to sample a new Irish dish and treat my taste buds to something delicious!