Patrick’s Secret Recipe?
The first thing you need to know about the Irish-Anglo prison now rebranded as Australia is the all-conquering bar of deliciousness that is the Violet Crumble. Or the second perhaps, after learning not to stand directly under that pesky hole in the o-zone.
The crackly honeycomb wrapped in chocolate is virtually unknown outside of the Oceanic country, with the secret recipe remaining closely guarded by stern-faced officials.
But could some early version of the treat have formed the basis for St Patrick’s path to sainthood?
Irish snacks trumped by Australian genius
Long a mainstay for the southern sweet tooth, the Violet Crumble is embedded at the heart of modern-day Australia. And with good reason, Aussies have been chomping on the iconic candy bar since their nation was but twelve years old.
Indeed, rumour has it the snack was originally created to provide solace from the strain that comes with being such an adolescent whiz kid. Artemis Fowl Syndrome. The breakthrough forming as part of a kind of virtuoso coming of age.
Because in the scheme of things, producing such a top-quality piece of confectionery after only twelve years of existence is a serious feat.
By the time the best-known Irish saint died in the 5th century AD, Ireland may have had a codified legal system and a national religion. But it is hard to imagine Patrick snacking on such a highly delicious treat.
The evidence is of course lost in the sods of time. But could it be that Violet Crumble, or similar Irish snacks, were purchasable – via clandestine trading networks or otherwise – in Patrick’s time? Scrumptious elixirs from which the Irish saint drew his prowess?
Patrick’s secret recipe kept under wrap(per)s
If in those frugal times he did enjoy such edible strokes of genius as the Violet Crumble, it is likely that St Paddy’s secret recipe for sainthood was kept far from prying eyes. The patron saint of Ireland (and Nigeria) would have had to wait several years for each candy shipment to arrive, before partaking in a glutinous binge for the ages.
The back of the pantry would likely have been a good spot for such unsaintlike activities – “Where are ya, Paddy?” “I’m in heeeere, haawney, thought I saw a snake…nom nom nom nom”.
Although definitive supporting historical documentation on the secret recipe may be lacking, you can at the very least conclude with certainty that, unlike Australia, the Irish saint was not consuming such delectable treats after just twelve years of life.
For kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave, Patrick’s adolescence saw him forced to spend his time in the lowliest of filthy hellholes, prostituting himself (as a shepherd). In this setup, you’d imagine he was God-blessed to have even the scantiest of sheep heads to lick come the colder nights of winter.
The rapidity of Australian evolution becomes even more impressive when viewed in the broader cultural context. Because unlike that fresh-faced, newly minted nation, Irish society was deeply rooted and built by an ancient race. The Celts stemming from sunnier climes and originally only intending to take but a short vacation in Ireland, so as to catch a glimpse of what is called ‘rain’.
Alas, the Celts were caught with their kilts down, and their arch nemeses spotted their opportunity. Soon enough, on account of being murdered, herded and raped into Europe’s corner lot by the Romans, the Irish became the Irish.
But what about those societies that were even deeper entrenched, those lucky enough to have been able to stay put, gradually building up knowledge and traditions? Doesn’t the sheer scale of the Australian achievement undermine all they ever produced?
At least the Irish saint wasn’t Greek
For whilst the Violet Crumble does diminish the Irish traditions and societal achievements of Patrick’s era, it’s nothing compared to the way sweet Violet crushes the high points of civilizations that developed in calmer, unhampering conditions.
Comprehending the feat achieved just twelve years into Australia’s development must truly mind boggle (not to mention head mess) people from such societies.
And the implications reach far back into time.
What does learning of Australian civilization’s candy bar achievement do to the mind of, say, a Greek? One day you’re seeing the same old Plato philosophy book you’ve known your entire life. The next you’re frantically scrutinizing the author bio pic on the back, so overcome with shame and the weight of crashing illusions that in the end you see spent chocolate wrappers peeping out from the Athenian’s pocket. (That seer of logic! Hiding the evidence! That’s what the gown was for!)
Envious of the heights attained down under, recent Danish studies have added a layer of controversy to the issue, suggesting that something may be be rotten, or at least peculiarly aromatic, in (all) the state(s) of Australia. A slew of high-profile research teams, comprising scholars from various branches of the archaeoconfectionary field, now dispute the dating system used to determine the age of the Violet Crumble’s secret recipe, which officially dates to the 1910s.
The teams of specialists conclude that the question of the purported date of formulation is similar to the claim of Egyptologists that Ancient Egypt began at its height, exploding suddenly into highly sophisticated civilization during the Early Dynastic Period (3150-2650 BC).
Logic dictates that such a zenith of civilization that can produce astronomically aligned tomb structures or snacks so delicious as the Violet Crumble is necessarily preceded by longer periods of development. You’re not top dog on your first day on the job, you got to put in the hours first.
Transforming Australian genius into Irish desserts
Amidst the inflamed and ever-broadening discourse surrounding the cult candy from down, downunder down, focusing on technicals is a good option if you are to grapple with the subject. The modern Aussie Oracle going by Violet boasts a light coat made of (not too) dark chocolate and, temporarily casting the finer points aside, can be seen as similar to one of the favorite Irish snacks, the (English, Cadburys-produced) Crunchie.
Although, it’s a bit lighter on the honey. And the hallowed Violet Crumble outdates the Crunchie, of course. Australia was in its late 20s by the time the Crunchie hit British gobs in 1929, probably already had chocolate-chomping children by then.
Alas, backed by the might and networks of the British chocolate industry, the Crunchie would become a globetrotter, while the Violet Crumble has remained an Oceanic insider secret. US readers with an unreasonable amount of candy cash to dispose of can head to their local Cost Plus if they fancy having a taste of the original (or order online).
Recipe for the Irish dessert version
But for those of you unlucky enough to live outside the Violet Crumble Catchment Area (VCCA), here’s the recipe for an Irish ice cream version of the treat. If you’re feeling frizzled after slurping on it, perhaps enlist the help of an original Irish coffee to heat you back up. Or if it’s way too cold outside to even think about ice cream, just opt for warmer Irish desserts like classic apple pie tart from the old country or strawberry mousse.
It’s of course not a traditional Irish drink, but it does come with Irish alcohol built in. If you’re outside of Australia, that ought to help numb the disappointment of not being where the magic happens.
In fact, it was traditionally thought that the most famous Irish alcohol was actually Patrick’s secret recipe for sainthood: uisce beatha. Directly translated as ‘elixir of life’. Or, in plain Australian, ‘whiskey’.
Ingredients for Violet Crumble Ice Cream Shake
(Makes 1 ice cream shake)
- 2 cups Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1 cup Honeycomb Ice Cream
- 2 oz (60 ml) Irish Cream
- 1 oz (30 ml) Irish Whiskey
- 1 oz (30 g) Dark Chocolate – chips or bar
- Pop your Dark Chocolate into a Blender and Pulse until the chocolate is finely ground – if you’re using chips, this will be happen very quickly.
- Take a Milkshake Glass and Add the Ice Cream, then the Irish Whiskey, the ground Chocolate, and the Irish Cream. Stir ever so gently.
Do serve in a milkshake glass – or at least something slim and tall.
Using the right kind of ice cream will make this Irish dessert vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Give serious consideration to topping with either chocolate or honey sauce.
Irish Violet Crumble image appears courtesy of Nathan Jones/Flickr, adapted and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.