UPDATE: Photos from my climb up Slemish mountain today at the bottom of the post!
As I write this post, it is the day before St. Patrick’s Day and the sun is shining here in Ireland! What’s even better is that this good weather is going to last for two whole days. Yes, you heard me right, two dry March days in a row on the Emerald Isle!
As you all know on 17 March, the Irish and Irish-at-heart around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in honour of Ireland’s most famous patron saint. This will be the first time in six years that I will actually be in Ireland to celebrate it, and I must admit that this is the first time I have ever been excited about it here in Ireland. It took five years of living in the U.S. to get into the swing of it all. It is true, St. Patrick’s Day is a much bigger show on the east side of the big pond.
Little is known of St. Patrick himself, but legend has it that when he was a youth he tended sheep on Slemish mountain on the outskirts of a town called Ballymena in Co. Antrim. I am ashamed to admit that I have lived on-and-off in Ballymena for some 20 years and have never climbed Slemish mountain! So what better day to have my maiden climb of Slemish than St. Patricks Day. It is quite the tradition round these parts to walk up Slemish on 17 March, so it should be good ‘craic‘ as they say here in Northern Ireland. I promise to post some pics on our Facebook wall later today!
Seeing as I am going to need some good sturdy food in me to climb up Slemish and seeing as it is the most Irish of days, there is only one food that meets the bill for me and that is Irish Oatmeal! Well, I could attempt an Ulster Fry which would comprise: fried bacon, fried egg, fried sausage, fried soda bread, fried potato bread and fried tomato, but with all that “fried” goodness, I may just decide to stay home and have a nap instead. Instead, let me introduce you to Northern Ireland’s very own White’s steel-cut oats. White’s is the only oat mill in Northern Ireland and sources its oats from local farmers. Their product is totally natural, free from additives and preservatives and not genetically modified in any way. I actually got my hands on a couple of their product items that are being exported to the U.S. and they look stunning. They only just started exporting to the U.S. so do keep an eye out for them especially if you live on the Eastern Seaboard or the Chicago area.
By the way, if you feel you are being greeted with blank stairs by people in Ireland when you gush with delight about how you just love Irish oatmeal, it is because we call it porridge over here. I say this because this happened to me when I first landed on U.S shores back in 2004.
I will then wash down my oatmeal with some delicious Irish Breakfast tea by Punjana and clover shaped Grace’s Irish shortbread (well it is a holiday after all). Interesting little tidbit about Punjana tea: the original Punjana factory lay in the shadow of Goliath, the great crane that dominates the Belfast skyline and was used in the building of the Titanic. For those of you who did not know, Titanic was built in Belfast.
Punjana has been exporting to the U.S. for over two years now and you can find them in some of the more mainstream stores. If you can’t find their tea in a store, you can buy them on their online store. Grace’s shortbread, I have to say, is top notch stuff which just melts in your mouth. I believe it may be a little harder to find in the U.S., but keep an eye out in gift/specialty stores.
Now you know what I will be doing on St. Paddy’s, tell what are your plans for the day. Any special food treats being prepared and green beer being brewed?
UPDATE: So, it’s St.Paddy’s pm now and I did make it up and down Slemish!!! Wohoo! Sadly, the sun did not come out in the end, but it stayed dry. It was a lot of fun, and I know that I will be grimacing as I try walking down the stairs tomorrow morning. Going down was actually harder than going up!
Here are my pics: