What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes | culture: the word on cheese
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What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes

The beloved and infamous tuber of Ireland, the potato, did not exist on the island until the 1600s. So what sustained the Irish people up until that point? An endless list of dairy and grain products, it turns out! From fresh milk to whey to butter to a whole host of things made from oats, the Irish managed to create diversity in their diet even with limited resources.

Every account of what Irish people ate, from the pre-Christian Celts up through the 16th-century anti-British freedom fighters, revolves around dairy. The island’s green pastures gave rise to a culture that was fiercely proud of its cows (one of the main genres of Ancient Irish epics is entirely about violent cattle rustling), and a cuisine that revolved around banbidh, or “white foods.”

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Photo by Bon Appetit

Julia Domenicucci

Julia Domenicucci is an online editorial intern for culture who loves to try new foods almost as much as she loves trying new books. Born just outside of Boston and now attending school in the heart of it, Julia has come to really love the city, its art museums, and all the restaurants in the North End.