The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.15.03


St. Paddy was born a Taffy

The Scots have their whisky; the Welsh have their tongue, but the Irish have St. Paddy, who's second to none.

Everything turns to green this week and next as millions worldwide prepare to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 17. Here is a little background on the patron saint of Ireland.

Born in or about AD 385 in Wales, his given name was Maewin and he almost didn't get the job of Bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required scholarship. He was also far from being a saint in early years, as he considered himself a pagan until the age of 16. At that age, marauding Irish who raided his village took him as a slave.

During his captivity, he became closer to God and he escaped slavery after six years whereby he went to Gaul and studied in a monastery for a period of twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling was to convert pagans to Christianity. A return to Ireland saw him with an appointment as second bishop.

Patrick was very successful at winning converts and this fact upset the Celtic druids. He was arrested on several occasions but escaped each time. He traveled for the next thirty years across Ireland setting up monasteries, schools, and churches that would help in his quest for conversion. After retirement to County Down, he died on March 17 in AD 461.

This anniversary has been commemorated ever since and much folklore and blarney has been part of celebrations marking the day. One of the most visible of Irish icons is the shamrock and it stems from a bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick used a three-leafed clover to explain the holy trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

You can now say you have attended St. Pat's 101.

Along with green beer there is a tradition of serving an Irish stew. This hails the arrival of spring and helps keep the blarney in check as the beer goes down.


2 pounds lamb for stew
1 large turnip - peeled and cut into chunks
large carrot cut into thick slices
2 large onions cut into chunks
5 medium potatoes - peeled and quartered
2 celery stalks sliced
1 1/2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1 Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth

Cut lamb into 1-inch cubes and toss in flour. Brown lamb in oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add vegetables and salt and pepper accordingly. Stir in chicken broth and Bay leaf. Cover tightly and simmer for 2 hours on top of the stove stirring every so often.