Why Your Excuses Are Crap: St. Patrick’s Day

I’d like to begin an occasional series called Why Your Excuses are Crap. This series will interrogate the foundational arguments upon which your ego defenses regarding nutrition and physical activity are predicated, identifying the factual inaccuracies and logical fallacies therein. In other words, why you are often full of shit and extremely inventive when it comes to putting obstacles in your own way.

Today’s instalment of WYEAC concerns holiday eating. Here are two common excuses I hear:

I can’t eat well on [insert holiday: Hanukah, Pancake Tuesday, President’s Day, Bank Holiday etc.].

My culture’s cuisine is full of [insert: pasta, butter, cream, peanut butter cups, etc.].

Both of these are crap excuses, and here’s why. Let’s take today, St. Patrick’s Day, as our example.

1. Every holiday tradition can be interpreted in a healthy way or with non-insane portion sizes. OK, maybe your tradition demands a little fruitcake (insert “reclaiming homophobic humour on Pride Day” joke here) but that can easily be a little fruit, or a little fruitcake, not an entire cake. In the case of St. Paddy’s Day, sure you could go out and end up smashed on green beer, face down in a pile of fried potatoes and battered fish. But you don’t have to. Which leads me to point #2…

2. Your culture’s cuisine is not what you eat in restaurants. There is no cuisine I can think of — yes, even American and British — that does not have redeeming features. So let’s take Ireland. Stereotypical cuisine involves something either boiled or deep-fried, potato-based, and served with a drunken punch in the face.

I’ve traveled all over Ireland and here’s some stuff that makes their indigenous cooking awesome. First, the fish. They’re an island. Island means fish. I had some brilliant fish chowders, and when I had the pleasure of dining at my friend’s house in northern Ireland, he served an enormous grilled Atlantic salmon. It was so huge it hung off the barbecue grill on both ends.

Second, the bread. Even on the Aran Islands, one of those rocky outcroppings in the North Atlantic that feels like the end of the earth, I had an amazing bowl of soup with the wonderful hearty, grainy “wheaten bread” that one can find all over the country. Farmers on the island also raise small cows that are well-adapted to the rocky terrain. That means some nice tasty beef, which means Irish stew.

Third, the cheese and dairy. This is true for the UK as well, another bastion of stereotypically horrid cuisine. Forget the pub grub in Ireland. Go to the grocery store and find some fresh local Irish cheddar.

Fourth, whole grains. Oats and barley, and to a lesser degree, millet, are often used.

What does that all add up to? Why, my St. Patrick’s Day meal of course! It’s not entirely Paleolithic, as the beer and barley are Neolithic, but it’s a far cry from breaded frozen nastiness. The whole thing took me probably 30 min to prepare.

  • Venison Guinness stew with carrots, done in the slow cooker.
  • Sauteed leeks
  • Barley pilaf
  • Roasted mashed turnips, celery root and apple topped with a little strong cheddar

That seemed good enough, but if I’d wanted more, I could have added a nice cabbage slaw.

Have a good craic, everyone!