“An old Irish text says: ‘Anyone who gives another anything in which there has been a dead mouse or dead weasel, three fasts are laid on him who gives it.’” (McMahon, 1990, p. 38). Well, that makes me feel better!
Basic hospitality was important to the Gaels. To turn away a stranger from one’s door was not only severely frowned upon, it resulted in a loss of honor. One was expected to offer food and drink before even asking a stranger his/her business. So, if I were to show up at the gates of a hostel, such as the one mentioned in Scéla Muicce Meicc Da Thó, The Tale of Mac Da Thó’s Pig, what might I expect to find on the menu? Depending on the season, and whether or not a hunting party had been successful, any of the following might be on the feast menu:
Roasted hazelnuts, Roasted gull’s eggs, Emmer wheat bread with garlic butter, Buttermilk cheese
Soups and Porridges
Leek soup, Nettle soup, Oyster soup, Sorrel soup, Mushroom soup, Kidney soup, Ground barley porridge (with buttermilk, salt, or honey to taste), Elder and nettle porridge; Milk, egg, and cheese porridge
Smoked eel, Smoked or roasted salmon, Roasted wild boar, Smoked acorn-fed pig, Boiled mutton wrapped in straw, Honey-glazed capon, Shellfish on the half-shell, Salmon cakes, Toasted barely and beef stew, Roasted gull, Roasted pheasant or quail, Roasted woodcock or duck with rowanberry sauce, Baked plover, Boiled cockles and mussels
Boiled cabbage, Boiled or roasted leeks, Fresh celery slices (in season), Peas, Field beans, Stewed dulse (seaweed), Fat hen salad (tossed with watercress, mushrooms, young nettles, vetch or gorse beans, flax seeds, goat cheese, and buttermilk dressing)
Dried rosehips and crabapples; Fresh oaten cakes with bilberry or rowan berry sauce, sweetened with honey; Bowl of fresh wild strawberries, bilberries, brambleberries, or wild cherries with cream; Crabapple and rowanberry cobbler; Fat-hen seed bread with honey butter
Fresh or fermented cow’s milk, Goat’s milk, Ewe’s milk, Buttermilk, Stirabout with honey or mashed bilberries, Heather ale, Bragget (a type of beer), Mead, Elderberry wine, Imported Gaulish wine.
I found this nostalgic recipe in The Art of Irish Cooking. If any of you have a campfire or a fire-pit this season, give this a try and let me know how this works: “One of the great treats of my childhood was to roast eggs in the ashes under the fire in the sitting room. The eggs were pierced once with a pin, to let the sulphur fumes escape. They were then left in the warm ashes for about a half-hour. When we raked them out they were quite hard. They had a most unusual taste.” (Sheridan, 1965, p.98).
Asala, J. (2004). Celtic folklore cooking. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications.
McMahon, A. (ed.). (1990). Celtic way of life. Dublin: O’Brien.
Meagher, R.E. & Neave, E.P. (2004). Ancient Ireland: an explorer’s guide. Northampton, MA: Interlink Books.
Peplow, E. & R. (1988). In a monastery garden. Newton Abbot: David & Charles.
Sheridan, M. (1965). The art of Irish cooking. New York: Gramercy.
Rowan berries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowan