Are you off sweets for lent? For religious or health reasons this time of year many of us try to change our habits and food and drink is a huge part of that. This week The Leitrim Folklore collection looks at some of the food and drink our ancestors consumed in Leitrim almost 100 years ago.
One of the favourite foods that the people like is boxty. They used it three times a day long ago.
There was three kinds of boxty: boiled, fried and pancake boxty. The old fashioned boxty that people used was fried boxty.
They first washed the raw potatoes, then they peeled them and grated them with an article called a grater. They mix some flour and some boiled potatoes through it. Then they mix it up they out it into squares.
The boiled boxty was made much the same as the fried boxty. It was made into round cakes and put into a pot of boiling water and boiled for an hour or so.
Collected from Scoil Ardvarney, Dromahair by Maura Meehan, Kilcoon, Dromahair.
This was also made and is still being made in parts in this district. It was distilled from wheat, rye and corn and the best poteen was made from barley.
They made it in secret places on the mountain side. They steeped the grain in casks or barrels.
When it was a certain length steeped it was put into a vessel called a “Worm” which steam passed through and gradually trickled into the casks of grain and formed poteen. At this stage it was very dangerous owing to it not being seasoned enough.
Collected from Scoil Maolain, Mullies by Mary B. Travers.
In this locality long ago the dandelion was supposed to be good for the heart. People used to pound it and there come juice out of it and they drank it.
The foxglove is another herb and it cures cuts. People get it on the bank of a river or in weeds. The put the leaf down on top of the cut and it stops it from bleeding.
In this district long ago the watercress was used for giving you a good appetite. It usually grows beside wells.
In this district long ago the nettle was used for measles. They used to boil it and the juice used to cure it.
Thyme and sage was usually used for flavouring soup.
When a person had corns long ago in this locality they used to cure them with daisies. They stepped the roots of the daisies for about twelve hours and rubbed it on the corn then it used to draw it out.
Collected from Scoil Broca, Cluian Cláir by Sheila Kearny, Stramagress, Glenfarne, story told by her father John Kearny (ages 52).
Long ago the people used to make all classes of drinks. One beautiful drink that the people made was a vinegar drink and this drink was made from a vinegar plant.
In order to have this drink they kept this plant in a jar and they put spring water and sugar along with it. When they used of it they added more water and sugar. In this way they always had the drink. If they left this plant without water or sugar it would then rot.
There are very few of those plants to be had now. It must be that the people let them rot.
Another beautiful drink that the people often made long ago was a lime drink. In order to make this they got some spring water and a piece of lime stone and left it to melt in the spring water. Before long a bitter but beautiful drink was made.
They also made an oat meal drink which they called ‘bull milk.’ It was made with spring water and oat meal was put into it to soften. After a while it would form a beautiful drink.
Collected from Scoil Drumlease, by Patricia MacGoldrick, Dromahair, story from Mrs Mac Cormac, Dromahair (Age 70).
Leitrim School’s Folklore archive (1937-39) is available in Leitrim County Library and is the property of the National Folklore Collection UCD.
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