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First came Irish bacon. It probably appeared sometime in the mid-eighteenth century, probably as a bonus of the increasing flax trade between several Irish ports and New York City. Certainly, in the 1830s, when the Irish first arrived in numbers, Irish bacon was already a staple of the city’s chop houses. But the Irish immigrants couldn’t afford to eat Irish bacon—it was a luxury product. It probably wasn’t until the late nineteenth century, when the Irish in Ireland had advanced enough economically to treat themselves to a festive dish of bacon and greens, that any Irish American considered the possibility.
How bacon and greens evolved into Corned Beef and Cabbage is anybody’s guess. Some surmise that the Irish adopted the meat of their German, Jewish, or even German-Jewish neighbors or WASP employers and turned it into a dish to help celebrate their Saint Patrick’s Day, an essentially New York City–Irish holiday that is now part of all Irish American culture.
It’s said that “everyone in New York City is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day.” The beer is green, the bagels are green, Italian pastries are filled with green cream, Latinos eat green rice, and everyone enjoys Corned Beef and Cabbage.
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and TextureMeaty, Salty, Spiced
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