Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Paddy's Day?

St. Patrick's Day ranks close to the bottom in my holiday rankings, even though, I am, as my father-in-law used to say, "as Irish as Paddy's pig."

I don't know what my problem is--maybe it is as simple as the fact that green is an unflattering color, and the sudden appearance of flocks of green-appareled people is somewhat jarring. Especially in the morning. Ditto the sparkly shamrock-antennae headbands.

This probably happened to a lot of us today: you walked into school, or work, or wherever, and saw the sea of green, and thought, "Shit." I got the same shock, although I didn't "forget" to wear green, I deliberately avoided it, since green gives my skin the hue of an old cheese. If the St. Patrick's Day color was a nice charcoal, I'd be all over it. Green makes most white people look sickly, and coincidentally, most Irish (or people pretending to be Irish) also happen to be white.

And then there is this peculiar Virginia custom of pinching people who fail to wear green on St. Patrick's day. No one ever did that in Buffalo, where I grew up. Speaking of growing up, back in Buffalo we wore uniforms to school, and St. Patrick's day was a day when we were allowed to wear what we wanted, provided it was green. It turned into an annual wardrobe crisis for me, especially since sadistic school rules said that if you didn't wear green, you had to wear your uniform, or else get detention. One year, one of my brother's friends showed up to school dressed head to toe in green, just as the rules decreed. To the great consternation of the principal, he chose to wear a green dress that belonged to his grandmother, green pumps and a green handbag. He was sent home.

Or maybe I was traumatized by a different childhood event. My mother, as far as I can recall, never cooked corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. But she would make Irish coffee, which always looked delicious, what with all the whipped cream on top. One year--I was about nine years old--I asked my mother for a taste of the Irish coffee, and she let me sip from her cup, and the bitter, unsweetened, whiskey and coffee taste came as a huge shock, when I was expecting something akin to coffee flavored ice cream.

My mother was sensible in not preparing corned beef and cabbage, since it is one of the most unappetizing meals imaginable. Jon insists on it, so I prepare it, but I draw the line at boiled cabbage. No, no, no. I prefer to chop it up and saute it in butter, with caraway seeds, if I have them. I do love Irish soda bread, particularly when it's spread with cream cheese and strawberry jam. Our friends are coming for dinner tonight, so I think I'll visit The Pioneer Woman Cooks and she if she has any suggestions on how to make corned beef edible.

My dad's role in the celebration of St. Patrick's day was to take us to Buffalo's St. Patrick's day parade, which was always fun, although I remember it was also often freezing cold and there was usually a stiff breeze. And in Buffalo, a breeze isn't considered stiff unless it can literally lift you off your feet. Still, we went every year and we all enjoyed it, although I recall my mom would stay home, and she probably enjoyed that too.

I wanted to include a picture of Buffalo's St. Patrick's Day parade, but couldn't find one, so I'll include a picture of the Old First Ward in Buffalo, which is where the Irish first settled, later moving to South Buffalo, where my mother grew up and which is still very Irish. Obviously, the neighborhood has seen better days, although I'm hearing that there's a revival going on. I love the grain elevator in the background. When I did crew, we'd be rowing through the canal on the backside of those very elevators.


  1. I'm a redhead and white and I look fabulous in green. Hoosiers definitely pinch.

    And I love corned beef and cabbage. When I said goodbye to vegetarianism (after well over a decade), corned beef & cabbage was one of the first meals I made. I've made it in the pressure cooker and in the crockpot and in thee oven. Cabbage is definitely tastier when not overboiled. It's lovely when lightly blanched with some apples. I'll probably go pick up some more corned beef up at WF while it's still on sale.

    Made this for the parents-in-law a couple weeks ago--great texture. The onions were a bit too orangey for my liking, but the leftovers made a great hash.

    And after all that--we don't celebrate St. Patrick. We identify more with the snakes, after all

  2. I bet the crockpot is the way to go to make any tough piece of meat edible. I ate just a tiny taste of ours and it had the flavor of an old dishrag and the texture of a leather purse left, for about six years, at the bottom of the bin at the Salvation Army.
    I was well into adulthood before I realized that "snakes" was symbolic for "pagans."