From St. Patrick they got Christianity, and from Sir Walter Raleigh the potato, and it says something either about Irish attention to the hereafter or their ambivalence toward the potato that no one has ever donned green cloaks to march in a Sir Walter's Day parade.

One-time mainstay of the Irish diet and cause of its famine, the potato is as inextricably linked with that country as a glass of Guinness. The connection has been made as long ago as the 17th century when the head of the Irish exchequer, visiting London to plead the Catholic claims, was met by a hostile mob who gave him a mock honor guard bearing potatoes stuck on poles.

The potato may be the root of the Irish cuisine, but it is not all There are Dublin Bay Prawns and Irish salmon; there is mutton and lamb and corned beef and cabbage; there are cakes and sweet breads and rich, heavy cream.

One Irish peasant dish manages to merge the potato with another staple of the Irish diet -- cabbage. Colcannon is a mixture of chopped, sauteed onions, cooked green cabbage drained dry and finely chopped, and cooked mashed potatoes (highly seasoned with salt and pepper, formed into patties, and sauteed in butter until brown).

There is also Irish stew, for which you will find as many recipes as Irishmen, and Irish soda bread, which can be a rich tea cake studded with raisins and caraway seeds, or a homely cottage loaf to be served with stew.

The main ingredients of a St. Patrick's Day party are the singing of Irish songs, the fighting of Irish battles, and the drinking of Irish whiskeys, but even the fey must eat, and how better to celebrate Irishness than with an Irish lamb stew and a loaf of Irish soda bread.

The stew will be the richer if you use several cuts of lamb -- shoulder, breast, short ribs and neck -- and let it simmer for at least two hours, either on top of the stove or in the oven. When the lamb is tender and the broth flavorful -- potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions -- and the recipe will be as authentically Irish as you are.