Erin Go Bragh Yourself

Luck of the Irish

By: - Mar 18, 2024

Once a year I get to celebrate my Irish heritage.

The rest of the time I am Sicilian, more or less. Except in Italy where I am American.

Like the Sopranos when they visited Naples to negotiate a crime deal. Their hostess, a godmother, invited Tony and his crew to a fancy restaurant.

The waiter served Pauley Walnuts a plate of spaghetti al nero di sepia. The delicacy of black pasta is prepared with squid ink. I first had it in Sienna con vongoli.

 Looking at what had been placed before him Pauley said to Christopher, “What is this shit?” Then ordered the waiter to “Bring me pasta with gravy.” Turning to a colleague the server said in dialect “These bastards think they’re Italian.”

 Which is to say that my ancestry has little to do with origins but everything related to traditions. On Christmas Eve, a feast of fishes, and on St. Paddy’s Day, corned beef and cabbage.

It was my mother’s favorite meal and I always think of her when preparing it.

Properly done it’s a day long ritual. Starting in the morning,  rinsing the meat for a couple of hours in running water. That’s to get the brine out. Then around noon or so, into the pot to be slow boiled for hours. The tough cuts of beef are the most flavorful.

During the last hour add potatoes, cabbage and carrots. With the brined beef these were late season remnants of the root cellar.

We enjoy the festive meal with friends, on this occasion, neighbors Carlos and Sandra. He brought the Guinness.

On Sunday, the actual Saint Patrick’s Day, we were invited to an annual gathering hosted by Bill and Lisa Blackmer. He’s a retired State Trooper and she chairs the North Adams City Council. A former mayor, Tom Bernard, joined our table as well as reporter/editor Tammy Daniels and their spouses.

It was blustery as we gathered at noon. I thought of a Guinness but Astrid and I opted for tea. How odd to be Irish and quite sober as we watched the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade from Southie. I never touch the stuff before 5 PM at which time Mom would say “Bar’s open.” She liked a martini then rattled the ice in her glass demanding “a dividend.”

Lisa distributed a stash of hats and beads for the occasion. I wore a strand from the last time and added a new one. Astrid was wearing green while I was total Johnny Cash.

Astrid and I shared loaded nachos with more hot water for our tea. Yet again, Bill went all in and ordered the corned beef and cabbage while Lisa opted for the Irish Stew. For $23 his plate seemed rather sparse with a bit of meat, a sprig of cabbage, a couple of spuds and carrots out of the bag.

There was lively traditional music from a trio. Bill told me that the night before the Freightyard Pub had been packed with revelers. Our table sang along pounding the beat and belting out lyrics.

The highlight of the afternoon occurred when Lisa joined the band for a rendition of the Unicorn song. She mimed it with hilarious gestures. Appropriately, she wore unicorn head gear which figured into the narrative.

Last night we packed off the end of the corned beef. I thought of a Guinness in the fridge but opted to finish a fine bottle of Vouvray.

Which is kind of sad come to think of it. Our maids used to say we weren’t Irish at all.

So it seems, not at all, at all.