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FACTS & FIGURES #11: Not for the true Irish

Corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day?

Boston-area supermarkets are stocking up on corned beef and cabbage in time for St. Patrick’s Day dinner. But what some consider to be the quintessential Irish dish is not really Irish at all. Many Irish-Americans celebrate their roots on the 17th of March by serving up the corned beef and boiled cabbage classic, but it’s a rare Irishman who will be dining on the dish for the holiday. In fact, most corned beef on the Emerald Isle comes out of a can and isn’t deemed worthy of special-day faire.

So why do Americans eat corned beef to feel Irish? Consumption of the salt-cured meat originated in Irish-American immigrant communities in the late 19th century. For a taste of home, corned beef was a much less expensive alternative to their more traditional cabbage accompaniment, Irish bacon.

It’s probably more Irish to have a pint on St. Paddies, but for Irish-Americans, the custom to enjoy a rib-sticking plate of corned beef and cabbage is sticking around.

– Jenny White

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