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On March 17, Stout Is What It's All About

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Friday is St. Patrick's Day, one of the busiest days of the year at the nation's drinking establishments. WEEKEND EDITION food essayist Bonny Wolf considers what's on tap.

BONNY WOLF reporting:

Think before you drink green beer. If you really want to be Irish for a day, your beer should be black. Nothing says Ireland like a pint of dry dark stout. St. Patrick himself is said to have traveled with his own personal brewer. Arthur Guinness made stouts synonymous with Ireland in 1759 when he signed an optimistic 9,000 year lease on a brewery in Dublin. Now more than 10 million glasses of Guinness are drunk every day around the world. A good bit of America's share is drunk in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day.

Stout is made with well roasted barley that gives it a slightly burnt dark chocolate taste. It's creamy, long-lasting head is so thick, you can trace a shamrock in it with your finger. The four leaf clover will still be there after a few sips. At one time, stout was considered a health drink. It was said to be good for the nerves, digestion, exhaustion, insomnia and the blood. It was given to nursing mothers and sick children.

Today stout might be deemed a diet drink with fewer calories than low fat milk or orange juice. Some consider stout an aphrodisiac. No scientific proof but a good excuse to drink in excess. But stout is also an ingredient. Yes, you can have your stout and eat it too. It tenderizes the meat and gives its multi tastes to stews, steak and oyster pie, stuffed pork and roast duck. Herring is potted in Guinness. And it's added to oyster bisque and onion soup. There are even recipes using stout to marinate teriyaki tuna, and as an ingredient in cheese fondue. Talk about fusion cuisine. There is stout mayonnaise and stout barbecue sauce. And the desserts. Stout ice cream is a common favorite. Gingerbread and chocolate cakes, brownies and minced meat pies and all manner of puddings are made with stout.

The dark brew goes well with cheese, chocolate and cigars and is said to be better than champagne or white wine with oysters. So on this St. Patrick's Day enjoy a pint in the pub or in the kitchen. To paraphrase an Irish blessing, may your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong, and may your beer never be green.

HANSEN: Bonny Wolf's book of food essays, Talking With My Mouth Full, will be published this fall by St. Martin's Press. You can find some recipes using stout at our website, NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR commentator Bonny Wolf grew up in Minnesota and has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in New Jersey and Texas. She taught journalism at Texas A&M University where she encouraged her student, Lyle Lovett, to give up music and get a real job. Wolf gives better advice about cooking and eating, and contributes her monthly food essay to NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday. She is also a contributing editor to "Kitchen Window," NPR's Web-only, weekly food column.
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