St. Patrick's Day Reclaimed

Shortly after moving to New York, I stopped celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. After growing up always celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I stopped wearing green to make the holiday. I lmade fun of those green-dyed carnations delis push for St. Patrick’s Day. I made sure I didn’t go near the parade and I never cooked corned beef and cabbage. I decided that since gay and lesbian people were not allowed to march in the parade, I wouldn’t honor the holiday. Since they didn’t want me, I didn’t want them.

This year, something changed in me. I saw those plastic shamrock banners flapping in front of the Irish bars around my office and instead of feeling angry at being excluded from the parade, this year I felt excited, even proud of the bit of Irish heritage my family claims.

I started thinking about corned beef, steamed cabbage, Jameson’s Irish whiskey and beer. Lots of beer. I started thinking about the shamrock my grandfather had painted on his front door and about my grandmother and my mom making (or attempting to make) big steaming pots of corned beef and cabbage.

With our new city council speaker Christine Quinn protesting the rights of lesbians and gay men to march in the parade, I saw an opening. Speaker Quinn was doing such a good job of protesting that I could go ahead and have my holiday back. A few days before St. Patrick’s Day, I went to a pre-theater dinner in Times Square and ordered the corned beef and cabbage. It was much better than I expected.

The trick, I think, was that they made the vegetables and the meat in separate pots. This kept the vegetables from getting coated in grease and getting overcooked. Cooking them separately might border on sacrilegious to some (My mom reported that she cooked her corned beef and vegetables in the same pot, under my grandmother’s watch), but I did my research and found out that this boiled dinner isn’t authentic Irish food. It’s considered an Irish-American adaptation so I figured I could keep adapting.

I steamed the potatoes, carrots and cabbage in my stock pot while I boiled the corned beef in a dutch oven with peppercorns, two bay leaves and a clove. I didn’t cure my own corned beef, but I’m excited about trying that next time.

I had memories of corned beef dinners past where it all ended up as one boiled mass of mush, but by steaming the vegetables, they stayed bright and kept their shape. I made three rows on the planner: row of carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Then I laid the corned beef on top of the cabbage. CQ bought some Yuengling Lager – my favorite beer – and we were all set for dinner. I think we all liked it much more than we expected.

[Thanks to my friends at Apartment Therapy Kitchen for this post on 4 ways to cook corned beef. And thanks to [2] for reminding me to finish this post.]


Blogger Amy Sherman said...

Great post about reclaiming a holiday! Too bad I can't stand most Jewish food. Still I try to find some recipes that will allow me to celebrate traditional holidays and make them more, shall we say palatable?

10:27 PM  
Anonymous sher said...

Good for you!!! I'm so glad you took back a holiday that has meant so much to you. And I think cooking the veggies and meat seperately is a great idea.

11:32 AM  

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