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

March 17th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  11 Comments

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!


  1. Alicia says:

    March 17th, 2009at 8:23 pm(#)

    That stew sounds so good.

    Do you usually eat paleo? I’ve seen you mention the word a couple times recently but I must have missed it if you said you’re going cavewoman style.

    I’ve been transitioning to paleo eating for the last week or so and really love it so far. So! Much! Energy!

  2. Terry Gibbs says:

    March 17th, 2009at 9:05 pm(#)

    Was lucky enough to train in a gym with the 72 Olympic WL coach, Bruce Walsh and he had a chart with a long list of unaccepatble excuses, for people missing training, some very funny.

    I trained a young thrower once whose mother was not as keen as here son. After many missed training sessions for flu, colds, sore throats, tiredness etc., I bluntly replied
    “George Frenn once benched 400 in a bodycast,” ….he never missed a workout after that, became a good thrower..

    looking forward to your list, done with your unique wit (and now the pressure is on)

  3. Mistress Krista says:

    March 18th, 2009at 5:34 am(#)

    Yeah, I normally eat more or less Paleo style. I read the research and the evidence in favour of it was pretty compelling, but more than that I’m sensitive to grains and intolerant to cow dairy. I discovered that my allergy symptoms just went away when I cut out grains. I figure animal protein + fruit/veg is a pretty good way to eat, regardless of what you want to call it.

  4. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach says:

    March 18th, 2009at 6:55 am(#)

    Did you say ‘venison’? Since feeding my dogs on the raw diet, I’ve had the opportunity to try venison – it’s definitely an acquired taste but most yummy in soup. I will point out that you neglected the most important soup-ingredients, habanero peppers, but it still sounded good.

  5. Mistress Krista says:

    March 18th, 2009at 12:18 pm(#)

    With venison the trick is to slow cook it for a loooong time and use a strongly flavoured sauce. It’s lean, so it needs to be braised or otherwise simmered in liquid, and it can’t be overdone. But in a crockpot on low for 8-10 hours… awesome.

  6. John says:

    March 18th, 2009at 1:52 pm(#)

    What do you recommend using in place of rice or pasta for serving a saucy dish like a curry?

  7. Mistress Krista says:

    March 18th, 2009at 3:53 pm(#)

    You can try going without rice/pasta altogether — not every dish needs it. It’s just sort of a habit to have them there. The dish thus becomes more like a stew than a sauce sitting atop a starch.

    But other nice options include:
    -pureed roasted veggies such as squash, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, celery root, cauliflower, etc.
    -“noodles” made with a vegetable peeler (keep peeling a carrot, sweet potato, or zucchini till it’s all gone, then quickly saute)
    -spaghetti squash — this is great when used as a pasta substitute

  8. John says:

    March 19th, 2009at 8:00 am(#)

    That’s exactly what I ended up doing last night. I sauted some leeks that I sliced lengthwise. Thanks for the other suggestions.

  9. Lieke says:

    March 19th, 2009at 8:59 am(#)

    Venison like deer is also great to eat grilled like you would a steak, provided it’s from a young animal and well filleted. The taste usually gets stronger as the animal gets older.

  10. Ingrid says:

    March 21st, 2009at 8:52 pm(#)

    Venison is delicious… just spent 3 weeks in Finland where we ate reindeer, often. Filetted, sauteed, chops, and stew – just fantastic. Kangaroo is just as good – lean, tasty meat, very good on the type of eating plan you describe!

  11. Sarah says:

    March 22nd, 2009at 10:39 pm(#)

    Reindeer is caribou here in Canada – and it is, without question, the best-tasting meat on the planet*.

    In reference to “what to use instead of rice/pasta” – I use thinly sliced cabbage, lightly boiled. It’s a perfect spaghetti substitute, takes only a few minutes and I actually prefer it.

    *I haven’t actually eaten every animal protein on the planet, so there’s every chance that wildebeest or tapir are just as good as caribou. But of the ones I’ve tried, it’s the best – and there seems to be a pretty good consensus on this amongst caribou-eaters. Why else would the Inuit live where they do? Caribou – it makes life on the tundra worthwhile.

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