I am not Irish. I have never been Irish, and will never be Irish. I cannot even be confused with being Irish. But that has not stopped St. Patrick’s Day from being one of my favorite holidays ever. All things considered, my love for the holiday probably predates my existence. My father moved to Chicago, Illinois just after he graduated college and to this day, it remains one of his favorite places to have lived. He has told me many great stories about the city: from the die-hard sports fans to the harsh cold winters. Mixed in with those stories are the joyous celebrations around the city on March 17th. He and my mother would venture out to watch the parades and drink up the jubilant atmosphere that was so very different from their southern rural North Carolina traditions.
By the time I was old enough to enjoy St. Patty’s Day, we lived in suburban New Jersey. In our borough, the celebration was not demonstrated by huge parades and river-dying, but in a district-wide meal. My elementary school would make an immense breakfast and the whole town would show up to celebrate in camaraderie and conversations. I would find my classmates, play, and have my fill of jelly doughnuts (not a traditional Irish meal but I was young). Then it would be over. Parents would go to work, children to school, but all riding on a high that is unique to such social gatherings. It, for me, cemented an appreciation and an expectation for what the day could bring.
Now I am older, and the world sometimes feels a little bit colder. But on March 17th (and often the weekend before or after) I strive to find ways to find my friends and play. It is not that hard, because year after year, it seems they want to play too. We pick an apartment or house and gather to make a variety of dishes. Someone must make corned beef. It is a requirement. The only other requirement is that we have fun and enjoy each other’s company. Generally, at some point, we all find our way to the nearest bar. But even if we don’t, the point is that we see each other, and have fun. More than the great food, Guinness, and Irish whiskey--Saint Patrick’s Day is about good friends and good people.
In spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day (and my really good friends); here is one of the better recipes for Corned Beef and Cabbage. It is taken from The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook published in 1999.
1 lean corned beef Brisket (about 4 pounds) trimmed of excess fat
1 peeled medium onion, stuck with 4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground pepper
3 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in halves
4 large carrots, scraped and sliced thickly
6 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and halved
1 medium (about 2 pounds) green cabbage outer leaves removed cored and cut into wedges
Place the beef in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the meat by 2 inches. Bring to a boil on high heat. Lower heat to medium-low. Skim and discard any froth that rises to the top. Add onion stick with Cloves, mustard, thyme, and pepper. Cook slowly, covered, accordion to the package instructions or until meat is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork, about 3 hours. Add onions, potatoes, and cabbage during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Remove and discard onion stick with cloves. Take out beef. Cover with aluminum foil; keep warm. Allow meat to rest 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
To serve, cut into slices and place in center of a platter. Arrange vegetable around it. Top with some of the broth, if desired. 6 to 8 Servings.
What makes St. Patrick's Day great for you? Is it the food, the family traditions, or maybe the sense of community in your town? Jump over to our Facebook Page and let us know!