And, while my Irish Mom is a big part of who I am (and my Dad, too...I named my dog Henry in his honor), my love of food and cooking and feeding people seems to come from my maternal grandmother, Mary Fitzpatrick. She and my grandfather Clark lived on a working farm in Harford County and I've written a little about them before. They were extremely hard working people - raising lambs, pigs, chickens and steer, churning their own butter, smoking and curing meats and so much more. Mary was a fabulous cook and if you stopped by their house, you ate. Like, really, ate. One of my Mom's most vivid food memories was her mother frying chicken in bacon fat - she said the skin was perfectly crispy. I've gotta try that.
While I don't have the time to make my own butter or keep (much less, slaughter...oy) my own animals, I do try to live a bit like my grandparents did. I grow vegetables and herbs and buy most of my food - bread, produce, meat, coffee, milk, cheese, etc - directly from the people who produced it by shopping at the Waverly Market every Saturday, year round. And...I think my decision to keep backyard chickens is a sort of nod to Clark and Mary. I just wish I could have met them.
While my grandparents loved good food, they didn't really go big on what you think of as typically Irish fare. They did eat lots of lamb and potatoes (and enjoyed the whiskey, I hear...) but they didn't really make a big deal about St. Patrick's Day, much less about being Irish. Don't get me wrong, they were proud...but they really were simple people, living a simple life.
Every year when St. Patrick's Day rolls around, I think I really should honor my ancestors and go out to drink some green beers or dance a jig or something...but I don't usually do that. I'm not one for crowded bars, but I do celebrate at home. I might make some corned beef and cabbage, maybe a potato gratin (okay, that sounds fancy, so let's call it scalloped potatoes...that sounds more like my family) and I'll definitely enjoy a nice pint o' Guinness. If you want a really nicely poured Guinness, go to James Joyce Pub - they do it right.
Maybe I'll even have an Irish car bomb? They are delicious, but trouble. A shot of Bailey's with whiskey dropped into a 1/2 pint of Guinness. Have you ever had one? Super delicious and dangerous if you overdo it. Do not have more than one. I'm warning you. Stop.
If you're planning on doing an Irish feast this weekend, here are some delicious ideas.
Cook's Country's Guinness Beef Stew
Irish Soda Bread from Epicurious
Steamy Kitchen's Corned Beef and Cabbage
Enjoy St. Patrick's Day, lads and lassies - make my people proud!
May your troubles be less and your blessing be more,
and nothing but happiness, come through your door.