Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and Drink

Going green for mighty Ireland

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With so many great potatoes pouring out of Pemberton Valley - the Yukon Golds, the Russetts, the Red Chieftains, Purple Peruvians, Sieglindes and the fingerlings - Whistler is perfectly positioned for March 17. If Grand Falls, New Brunswick can build the world's biggest igloo, one that holds 300 people, why couldn't Whistler make a shepherd's pie that feeds 300? Top it with Pemberton mashed potatoes and Guinness Book of World Records here we come!

Since that concept is as remote as it is exciting, I went off on a more practical vein and searched for the official celebratory dinner instead.

Despite our claim to Irish fame, neither my family nor my mom's, from whom our Irish bloodlines flow, served any special dishes for St. Paddy's Day other than mashed potatoes and maybe lime green Jell-O topped with whipped cream for a flourish. It was the colour of the Jell-O that counted, a counterpoint to the shamrocks made from fuzzy green pipe cleaners that we would dig out to wear each year.

Turns out this was all more typical than we realized. Even though St. Patrick's Day has morphed from its roots as a Catholic holiday and into a more secular celebration, we have it from the horse's mouth that no one cooks a special dish to mark the day in Ireland either.

"To be honest, you don't really eat anything traditional on St. Patrick's Day you wouldn't eat any other day," says Eddie Calvey, who tends bar at Dubh Linn Gate Old Irish Pub in the Pan Pacific Hotel in the village.

Only 3-plus years ago, Eddie left his small village of about 1,200 people in County Meath, the county directly north of Dublin, where his dad was a dairy farmer and produced their own milk that made milk from the store seem like water.

"Basically, most people go to church and go to the pub, and there would be a parade as well that will go on, and all that sort of thing," says Eddie. (He came to Whistler after snowboarding for a week, then Googling the best place in the world to snowboard.)

"You would have a big dinner with your family, but it would be a traditional dish like an Irish stew - just something you would have everyday like meat and potatoes and some boiled vegetables, like some cabbage or carrots or peas, something like that."

The order of events might vary - people might come home first for the mid-day dinner before heading to the pub.  And the food will vary, too. Potatoes might be roasted instead of mashed, and the meat might be a round steak slowly baked for hours in beef broth until it's tender and renders rich gravy for the turnips or carrots and potatoes.