Now that I've posted Mom's recipe, I got to thinking about the many patterns that we establish in regards to various foods.
Me, I've always eaten crackers with soup--but I've always eaten bread with Irish stew. When I was a kid, it was white bread (because that was the only bread that we ever had at the house... no one ever thought about whole wheat bread back then, and none of the groceries where we shopped had bread bakeries for more esoteric breads).
It was probably the early 1980s before Susan and I converted entirely from white to wheat breads, and about that time I began eating wheat bread with my stew. The problem with wheat bread, though, is that a lot of it is very airy--and since I'm a bread-dunker, I needed a hearty bread to hold up in the hot stew rather that disintegrating into a soggy mess. So I'd pick up a dense whole wheat bread, which worked quite well.
It was about 2002 when Susan and I discovered Publix bakery's sourdough bread; it's a hearty, heavy, almost tough bread ideally suited for stew. We'd get a round of bread, have it sliced, and I'd claim the pieces closer to the two ends, while Susan would take the middle slices. Susan doesn't dunk bread in her stew, so she preferred the softer part of the sourdough bread; me, I wanted the crusty outer layers, which somehow seemed magically suited for Irish stew.
And of couse, I have to add a liberal helping of black pepper and several dashes of Tabasco sauce (always Tabasco... never Pete's or any other brand of hot sauce. They don't live up to the name; only the McIlhenny family gets it right...) to my stew; it needs to be piquant but not excessively spicy.
Oh, yeah--have to have a soup spoon. Not a standard spoon, a bigger soup spoon. A small spoon just doesn't deliver enough stew in each bite... and this is too good to settle for smaller bites, believe me!