Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patty's Day everyone! The day when, no matter who you are, you're a little bit Irish!

Time to sing some Irish songs, wear green, eat some corned beef and cabbage (real comfort food), imbibe in a beer (or 2) and tell some harmless blarney.

Speaking of the traditional dish of this day...there are two statements/questions which always come up while enjoying this ambrosia of the Celtic Gods. Allow me to dip into my own head for the answers to them. Kiss that blarney stone and have the info ready at your dinner tonight.

1. What is "Corned" Beef?

Corned Beef is a beef roast of a cheaper cut, that traditionally would be more accessible to the working masses and took some doctoring to make it tender and flavorful. It is for all intents and purposes, "pickled" beef. It is beef preserved in a brine (salt, water) the same way you'd preserve/pickle salt pork or any number of brine washed cheeses like Parmesan. This process is called "corning" because the large kernels of salt used in the process, somewhat resemble kernels of corn. Tell this story at your dinner table and watch the wide-eyes of admiration and knowing nods of understanding unfold around you.

2. Someone will surely announce "They don't even know what corned beef is in Ireland, they don't eat it there. It's not Irish at all!"

While this statement is true, go ahead and stab the person saying it in the leg with a fork under the table where no one else an see. This is a statement people make who memorize little tidbits of information, but don't know the whole story.

Back in the late 19th century and through the dawn of the 20th, the Irish came to the U.S. in droves, leaving their former hard lives in Ireland for equally difficult ones here, with the hope of one day living the American Dream. They added to the rich fabric that makes up this nation and contributed greatly with strong backs, imaginative minds and hearty spirits and minds and did indeed find a better life.

A majority of these immigrants came here through Ellis Island in New York and many of them settled into the neighborhoods of Manhattan. Working hard for little pay and missing their homeland (who wouldn't) they grew nostalgic for some of their native dishes, one of the treat was Irish bacon. Irish bacon was a sustenance food which couldn't be found in this country, but they discovered that over in the neighborhoods settled by Eastern European Jews, there was a delicacy called "Corned Beef" that had a flavor and texture not unlike their Irish bacon and it was sold inexpensively.

TA DA! The Great American Melting Pot paid off, and the Irish immigrants in large cities like New York and Chicago found their substitute! So when that yahoo spouts off about corned beef not being Irish, you go ahead and point out that it's as Irish-American as it gets. And then tell them to "suck it"!

Eat hearty folks. I'm only about an eighth Irish myself (I am a true American mutt) but I will be singing an Irish lullaby as I drift off to sleep tonight with this great Irish-American comfort food on my breath.

And remember.

Guinness is GOOD for you!

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