RTE have launched a new five-part show to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. “Rebellion” is a big budget period drama with an eye for proper production values. It’s interesting seeing old authentic rifles and military uniforms being used, but will they show the nitty gritty of what food people had to eat back then?
It’s easy to forget that feeding an army requires a tonne of resources, which would ultimately disrupt food supplies and leading to food shortages for the general population. Essential food items like butter, eggs, bacon, and sugar were becoming nearly unobtainable and too expensive even if you could find them. At the same time great quantities of food were being shipped to Britain under the British food control order.
Frying or boiling foods was the cooking method of choice back then. As needs must, nose to tail eating became essential, with pork crubeen being a popular choice. Boiling bacon with cabbage was always the preferred dinner option, but if you could only get pig’s trotters and cheeks, you had to work with what you were given. Simmering them away for many hours with any available vegetables gave you a nice warm porky broth. Besides this, mutton, oxtail soup, bread, jam, milk and tea were consumed regularly. Potato cakes were also a regular staple for Irish households.
For those fighting, they had to rely on less exciting culinary delights. Oxo cubes were eaten with bread or biscuits and known as being a quick to make meal that would sustain you for hours. Cocoa was given to soldiers to gain strength and energy, while also keeping their spirits high. Tinned fruit, meat, sardines and pickles were heavily relied upon when food really needed to be rationed.
Fancy learning more? The Galway Food Festival from March 24th to 28th will commemorate the Easter Rising by rediscovering Ireland’s culinary heritage from 1916 up to 2016. Each decade will have its own theme, showcasing the food traditions and dishes from that time.
Now let’s keep an eye on what exactly they will be eating in the rest of “Rebellion”!