Regina Sexton, food and culinary historian at University College, Cork, this week released research on a study into Ireland’s diet in the fifth century as it made the transition from a Pagan to a Christian society.
She says record-keepers in ancient monasteries show that while obesity was not a problem in Patrick’s days, the fare was seasonal, wholesome and modest.
Dairy produce and cereals were everyday staples, and St. Patrick would have consumed lots of fresh milk, sour milk, thickened milk, colostrum, curds, flavoured curd mixtures, butter and soft and hard cheeses.
There was oats and barley, and a little rye together with more prestigious and high-ranking wheat. Flat breads and leavened wheat loaves were on offer.
Various wet preparations such as porridge, gruel, meal pastes and pottages as well as cereal milk and fruit-nut combinations were also being eaten on the island when the young Patrick arrived.
There was a wide range of wild foods, notably watercress and wild garlic, nature’s way of garnishing the delights of the countryside.
Sexton says, “If this didn’t whet his appetite, there were hen and goose eggs, honey, fish, butter, curds, seaweeds, apples and dairy as well as several varieties of soft and hard cheeses. The rivers were flush with salmon, trout and eel, and hard-cured pork as well as other meats, were to be had too.”
Now you know!