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Tasting the Flavors of Ireland

January 15, 2014 - 5:35pm
Dublin coddle is among the unique Irish foods seniors may come across on Europe tours.

No matter what Europe tours seniors choose to enjoy, they have the opportunity to discover unique and diverse cultures of the continent, from Italy through Germany. Those who visit Ireland get to explore the lush nature, vibrant communities and deep-rooted history of the Emerald Isle, not to mention the Celtic cuisine of the region. Most traditional Irish recipes are quite simple and use only a few basic ingredients, which makes sense considering they were mainly developed by poor peasants. But they aren't lacking in flavor thanks to centuries of culinary development, as well as a whole lot of creativity in the kitchen.

Those visiting Dublin on a Best of Ireland Tour have the option of joining in on a traditional Irish Night complete with a four-course meal and musical and dancing entertainment to accompany the feast. To prepare for the unfamiliar foods you might encounter during the trip, learn a little about these common Irish delights:

Bacon and Cabbage
While Americans tend to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day with corned beef and cabbage, the Irish celebrate it with bacon and cabbage. That's because beef was generally a food of the wealthy, whereas the poor usually stuck to bacon that could be preserved (peasants had no way of storing fresh meat). Senior group travel members will notice that this bacon isn't quite like the American version - it's thick-cut pork that's brined and preserved with salt.

Soda Bread
Along with potato, soda bread is an icon of Celtic fare. While some more Americanized version contain fruit, butter or eggs, traditional Irish soda bread does not. Rather, it's made of four base ingredients - flour, salt, bread soda and buttermilk. The quality of these components is a huge factor in the flavor, but so is the baking technique. It isn't kneaded like most breads, and it should be mixed gently with the fingers rather than a machine. Once the dough is prepared, it's placed in the oven immediately - it is not set to rise, because the bread soda and buttermilk create a unique and instantaneous reaction. While soda bread wasn't actually discovered by the Irish (the American Indians actually first developed it), it became a staple food due to its affordability.

Dublin Coddle
Senior travel groups making their way through Dublin may be able to also experience the city's namesake dish. The coddle, like many other Irish dishes, is a means of not wasting a single scrap of food. It's often made from leftovers, so it can include a variety of different ingredients; however, the dish is generally made from pork sausages, back bacon slices, potatoes and onions. Some also incorporate barley. The preparation technique is in the name itself - the ingredients are "coddled" or gently heated in below-boiling liquid.