Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Okay, let me say right here at the start that I have been to Ireland.  I was there for about 11 days and while teachers may wish young kids at school to wear green for St. Patrick's Day and Ireland, not everyone in Ireland wears green.  It is a VERY green place though.
Now, let's start right off the bat:  just about every paper, magazine or general periodical will have an article today about the history of St. Patrick's day.  Trust me, you don't need to find that here.  What is interesting and most things do not cover is that our beloved "Irish" meal of corned beef and cabbage, isn't at all Irish.

Corned beef doesn't have any corn it in.  Originally, the term 'corned' was mean as a derivative of the word 'course',  when describing the large pieces of salt that were used to salt and marinade the beef.  Salted meats have been long used as a means for preservation and seasoning and in this case, this 'corned' beef started out as nothing more than simple salted meat; either pork or beef.  There is a recipe as early as the 12 century depicting how to make salted beef.  This cured beef was ideal for long voyages and trips and around the 17th century, whole plants were located in Ireland for curing and supplying this salted beef to the English, French and others who needed it for long term voyages as a main food source.

When the Irish came to America, the beef was cheaper and thus many of the people who helped to process and create the cured meat were unable to afford it in their homeland.  Here in America, it could be purchased and made easily.  In Ireland, the beef was still more expensive for the average Irishman and so they would have eaten bacon or salted pork.  Because of the potato famine, many Irish workers needed vegetable nutrients and the cheapest they could find was cabbage.  Irish do not consider this corned beef and cabbage to be a traditional meal, but in this case bacon and cabbage could be considered one.  When I was in Ireland, I found many recipes containing goat and lamb and I would humbly suggest that a traditional Irish stew, that I did taste in Ireland, was one containing barley and lamb as well as a thick gravy stock and vegetables.

As for the Irish-Americans, they ate this new traditional meal every day.  It became so ingrained with the Irish workers that when the other Americans started to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, they thought it was an Irish dish and is started to be served on this day to celebrate.

Will I celebrate?  Well, the local homemade-style restaurant always serves corned beef and cabbage, all day long on St. Patrick's Day.  I will try to partake in that meal at that time.  As for everything else...  I may try to wear green, although St. Patrick's color of choice was blue.  The green came from the shamrock which he used to explain the Holy Trinity.  I will think of Ireland and its beauty and wonder and enchantment.  I will maybe listen to some songs, read something literary and enjoy a tall glass of Guinness.

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