Steampaí (cuid a dó)
January 30, 2011
Steampaí (cuid a dó)
Trawling my way through the OED I discovered that you can actually go through the words with reference to their origins.
There are for instance 1500 words listed which are either of Irish origin or specific Irish usage.
I was disappointed to discover that a word, a food word at that, hadn't ever managed to find its way into this dictionary.
Two of my blog entries refer to my efforts to track down this word, one from November 2007 and the other from November 2008.
I quote them both below.:
This all started with a mail from my old college friend, full time anthropologist and part time folk singer, James Flanagan, late of Baile Mhuirne, now of Hattiesburg, Mississippi in the US of A.
Now Jim knows me well, he knows that at least two of my passions are for food and etymology, so when he was dangling the following carrot in front of me he was both going to guarantee he get an answer and also give me hours of harmless fun trying to find same.
Jim wrote :
"I'm doing some Christmas gigs in Michigan with the band Legacy and in my role as MC and continuity man will be singing Amhrán an Steampaí. As you recall from the song it’s a food made with lots of sugar and mouthfuls of brandy with great aphrodisiacal qualities. However, neither Theodora Fitzgibbon nor Darina Allen mentions it in their Irish traditional food/cooking. The first line of the song says Is anall ó Shasana a tháinig an steampaí ‘gus thíos I gCorcaigh a chuireadh an slacht air”. A goggle search turns up a Jamaican dish called Stamp and Go which might well be related. It’s a kind of pancake. Any ideas? Have I piqued your interest?
Piqued my interest ? I was enthralled.
Partly because I felt I had a rough notion what it was but then had to find chapter and verse.
As Jim said neither Theodora, nor Darina listed it.
Neither did Myrtle Allen, nor Florence Irwin nor could it be found in Alan Davidson’s excellent Oxford Book of Food. I then trawled through Biddy White Lennon’s and John Mc Kenna’s Traditional Irish Food books to no avail. (I am nothing if not thorough)
I then turned to dictionaries.
Chambers was dumb on Stampy as was my large, double volume, Shorter Oxford although that did eliminate Jim’s Jamaican connection (see below).
Then it was the turn of the Irish dictionaries.
The (I would have thought) comprehensive Mr. Dineen couldn’t help me nor could the more compendious O Donaill/De Bhaldraithe, at least not on first reading.
It was in fact there, under a slightly different spelling that I caught my first glimpse of Steaimpí (again see below).
From there it was a comparative doddle to re look at all my previous books, but this time in search of Boxty Cake. Alan Davidson was the man who finally cracked it.
His source was our own Regina Sexton whose Irish Traditional food is hiding somewhere in my shelves (or else on holiday in the Languedoc)
So I was able to reply, an hour or two later, to Mississippi:
"Jesus Jimmy you know my weaknesses.
I have spent the last two hours knee deep in every Irish cookbook
and dictionary I possess.
Focloir Gaeilge Bearla by O Donaill/De Bhaldraithe
provided me with the first reference:"
Steaimpí ......(Ciste) Cake made of grated raw potatoes, 'Boxty'
"The Shorter OED rules out any relationship with the Jamaican Stamp and Go
as that is a Cod fish fritter taken from on a naval slang term for a command at sea.
I found then it, under Boxty in The Oxford Book of Food:"
“.....another variant dish (of Boxty) called Stampy was made in the same fashion as Boxty Bread but prepared with the new season potatoes and often enlivened with cream sugar and caraway seeds.
In the south west regions (of Ireland) the end of the potato harvest was marked with a Stampy Party when the harvest workers were rewarded with copious amounts of stampy bread.”
Boxty Bread ( I know) is made from a combination of mashed cooked and grated raw potatoes with flour, baking powder and milk.
If you remember the Irish song” Sweet Potato cake";
(I'm sure it must refer to Stampy)
"Did you ever bring potato cake
in a basket to the school,
Tucked underneath your oxter
with your book, your slate and rule,
And when teacher wasn't looking
sure a great big bite you'd take,
Of the flowery flavoured buttered
soft and sweet potato cake."
The addition of Brandy to further celebrate the end of harvest sounds just about right for the people of South West Ireland.
So here is a cobbled together (and totally untried) recipe for stampy.
Steaimpi Uí Fhlannagáin
1lb (450g) Raw Potatoes (peeled and grated)
1lb (450g) Cooked Mashed Potatoes
1lb (450g) Self Raising Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 oz. (60g) melted Butter
4 oz.(150ml) Cream
2 Eggs (beaten)
3oz. (90g ) Caster Sugar
1 Tablespoon Caraway Seeds
2 Tablespoons of Brandy.
Mix all together and make into four balls.
Flatten these into four round cakes and put on greased baking sheets.
Mark with a deep cross so they can break into four farls when cooked.
Cook at Gas 4,175C 350F for 35 to 40 minutes.
Eat hot with (of course!) more butter and a glass of brandy.
(Pay all medical insurance before consumption)
I reckon it was called Steampai becouse it was mashed
(or stamped) before being made.
If you make it, and live let me know and I might try it myself.
(As for its aphrodisiac qualities, discretion is probably the better part of vigour
And could you send me the words of the song as I can’t find it in Google.
Which he did:
Amhran an Stampai
From the singing of Sean O Liathain agus Diarmuid O Suilleabhain
on Ceoltoiri Laigheann
Is anall o Shasana a tháinig and stampaí
Is shíos i gCorcaigh a cuirfeadh an slacht ar
Do bhí súicre a dhothain ann is bolmacaí brandí
'S an té a bheadh ‘na ithe san, ba mhire na an stal é
Is raitheanach, a bhean bheag, a bhean bheag, a bhean bheag
raitheanach, a bhean bheag, is deinimís an chiste
raitheanach, a bhean bheag, a bhean bheag, a bhean bheag
raitheanach, a bhean bheag is deinimis arís é
Ar mo gabháil ó thuaid dom tri Barra na h-Ínse
Cé casfaí orm ach and triúr bhan chríona
Bhi duine acu dá fhuineadh, agus duine acu dá scríoba
Agus duine acu dá scagadh trí thóin a sheana bríste
Scilling so ló bhí do cócaire an stampaí
Do beadh agus coróin, dá ndeinidís i gceart é
Ach do dheinidís a muin air, 's do cimilidís a más dó
'S na thaobh an slí na dheintí é, do bhris sé amach ionam
‘Bé an t-athair Donnacadh an doctúr díochta
An sagart is fearr a tháinig so tír seo
Do cuirfeadh sé mallacht ar lucht stampaí scríoba
Le h-eagla fiachla na seana bhan chríona
Do cuireasa mo cailín-se isteach so steamer
Ag lorg graiteara chun and stampaí scríoba
Ach bhi an nglas ar an 'ndoras is an ochar ag Síle
Seachanaig an stampaí le h'eagla na síoltha
And this one from November 2008
There is an American/Irish band called Legacy which specialises in Irish Traditional music.
With my old friend Jim Flanagan, they have issued a CD called An Irish Christmas, Music and Songs from West Cork.
I am intrigued to have just discovered that that on the sleeve notes for the song Steampai
I actually get a royal mention!
15. Amhrán an Steampaí [Song]
(Song of the Steampaí). Having failed to find any reference to this, obviously wonderful, dish in either Theodora Fitzgibbon’s Traditional Foods of Ireland or Darina Allen’s Traditional Irish cooking, Jim turned to his friend from college days at U.C.C., former owner and chef at Dwyer’s of Mary Street, Waterford, and now consultant chef Martin Dwyer. Martin rejected Jim’s initial possibility that ‘steampaí’ might be related to the British Naval/Jamaican dish called Stamp and Go, and went ploughing through his collection of Irish/English and English/Irish dictionaries and his vast gastronomic library to establish a connection to Boxty and to Sweet Potato Bread. The entire story, and a recipe for Steampaí Uí Fhlannagáin (Flanagan’s Steampaí) can be found on Martin’s Blog of November 5, 2007 (www.martindwyer.com) and on Jim’s website (www.flanagansongs.com)
Pretty cool eh!