When I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day in my family was a really big deal. We are one-quarter Irish, but on March 17, the other three-quarters just got lost in the mayhem.
There was always a party. My mom would cook up a big pot of lamb, cabbage and potatoes. My brother and I would make cookies shaped like 4-leaf clovers sprinkled with green bits of candy. We got presents and cards and stickers on our cheeks. One year, we even had a bobbing for apples contest (not sure how that fits into the whole Irish thing, but hey, it was fun.)
Probably the most important thing about the Irish holiday was wearing green. If you didn’t wear green on March 17, you were going to get pinched. And there were no excuses. I was chased around the house many times (by my mother no less) to get pinched because I didn’t have green on. One time, she and my brother and sister came into my room early to wake me up, and pinch me, since my pajamas weren’t green. I was not happy about that.
Interestingly, when I researched the significance of the color green in regards to St. Patrick’s Day, I learned that St. Patrick’s favorite color was blue, not green. Also, it seems that the Irish are not keen on the color, because it was the color of Fairies and Leprechauns. Wearing green too much might cause you to morph into one of the wee folk. It wasn't until the 1800s that green became the official color of Ireland.
The man himself, St. Patrick, was quite a guy, according to several unreliable legends and tall tales. According to Irish lore, he banished all the snakes from Ireland, killed a sea monster, and passed an edict that allowed women to propose to men once every four years, on Leap Year. I’m sure if he was alive today, he would be running for president.
My mom would sometimes tell the story of when she visited Ireland and actually went to see the house where my great-great-grandmother had grown up. My mom and her two friends had to walk several miles to find it, and when they did, the people offered them something to drink: shots of brandy.
Now that I’m older, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t as big of a deal, mostly because it’s not a major holiday. I still have to go into work (although I am wearing green) and probably won’t eat any shamrock-shaped cookies. However, I am determined to find out where I can get a glass of green beer and I am hoping to cook up a big pot of lamb, cabbage, and potatoes. And who knows? I might even go apple bobbing. What can I say? Us Irish can be a wee bit crazy.
O'Irish Stew Recipe
Ready in: > 5 hrs
* 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
* 3 carrots, scraped and thinly sliced
* 2 onions, thinly sliced
* 1 pound potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
* 2 pounds lamb neck pieces, trimmed
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Finely chopped parsley, for garnish
Place the chicken broth into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Put all the vegetables in the crockpot; arrange the lamb on top.
Add boiling stock and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours on HIGH or 7 to 9 hours on LOW.
Sprinkle parsley over the stew and serve hot with thick, crusty bread.