DeKALB – Treneice Nichols was planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at home with her son. But when the DeKalb resident saw that the DeKalb Public Library was hosting a free St. Patrick’s Day party, she and Kenyetta, 9, decided to join in on the fun and try healthier versions of classic Irish fare that were made from scratch by the library’s executive director, Emily Faulkner.
“Once we saw there was a party, we wanted to come,” Nichols said. “I’ve never had Irish food before, so I wanted to try it. The food is really good. I’m enjoying it.”
The library held its first St. Patrick’s Day party Saturday afternoon, where guests were invited to sample healthier versions of corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, Irish soda bread and lemon shortbread cookies. The event was part of the “Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body” initiative between the library and the DeKalb Kiwanis Club, through which the library hosts events that educate the public about the importance of healthy eating.
Faulkner spent about five hours Saturday preparing the food. She said that instead of traditional corned beef and cabbage, her recipe used a leaner cut of beef. Instead of a shepherd’s pie, Faulkner’s vegan “shepherdess pie” had lentils in lieu of meat. The soda bread was made using whole wheat, and the lemon shortbread cookies had canola oil in place of butter.
“It’s nice to get a different take on classics and to learn about using healthier ingredients for holiday traditions,” Faulkner said. “Everyone is looking for ways to eat healthier. The library is planning to do more events like this to encourage people to try new things.”
Christian Monroy, 15, was spending the afternoon in the library’s teen area. The DeKalb High School sophomore said one of the librarians encouraged him to attend the party.
“I heard there was corned beef, and someone said it was good,” he said. “I’ve never had regular corned beef, but this is good.”
The Domroes family of DeKalb was hanging out in the library when a staff member told them about the party. Sara Domroes said they wanted to try the food, even after already having a traditional Irish lunch.
“We like the kids to try different foods. And Courtney really likes it. She’s a tough critic, so I’m amazed,” she said of her 7-year-old daughter, who was enjoying the “shepherdess pie.”
Elissa Jarke of DeKalb said her kids asked to visit the library, and once they found out about the party, the group headed downstairs to sample the food.
“I think the food is interesting, and I get to try something I wouldn’t normally eat,” Jarke said. “It’s nice they gave us the recipes. I really like the potatoes and cabbage. It’s important to eat healthier, and I’m trying to get that across to my kids.”