You might think you’re giving a nod to tradition with a fried breakfast or a few pints of stout this Thursday — but the diet of St Patrick himself was a little healthier. And the great man’s fifth-century menu is right back in vogue.
Right around the globe, it seems the fermented and wild foods St Patrick would have dined on are now among the hottest food trends.
So what was a fifth century diet like? Apparently, it was rich in oily fish like salmon and also contained oats, seaweed, nuts and wild vegetables. Soured and fermented milks and curds were also popular but St Patrick ate little in the way of meat and full fat cheeses and butter.
UCC historian Regina Sexton said one thing that was for sure was that there was no obesity problem.
“This was neither a throw-away nor a takeaway society and people took good care to preserve and conserve for future use foods that could not be consumed immediately.
“High in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, fermented milks, low GI grains, protein, minerals and vitamins, but low in sugars and meat. It is safe to say that obesity was not a problem in those days, and that the fare was seasonal, wholesome, and modest by today’s standards,” she said.
Cereals, most commonly oats and barley, and a little rye together with wheat, were used in the production of flat breads and it is also likely that leavened wheat loaves were on offer. Ms Sexton said items like soured milk drinks, oatmeal, seaweeds and wild fruits and vegetables were staples in the Irish early medieval diet. These are now some of the foods recommended by modern day nutritionists for achieving optimal health.
“Much of this is known because with the coming of Christianity, monastic settlements encouraged learning and record-keeping and those records have come down to us. Ironically, much of the food available then, is what we call ‘health food’ now,” she said.
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