Friday, March 16, 2012

Is Everyone Really Irish on St. Patrick's Day?

The big daddy of all March hoopla is here…St. Patrick’s Day!

The day when everyone is Irish…or so they say, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to dig out all their garish green sweaters and ties, view and or march in a parade, drink to excess and urinate on a public building, in broad daylight singing…”It’s a great day for the Irish!”

Yes indeed…the Irish are very proud to have you all on board….

I’m half Irish and half Italian, so I only get half excited about the whole thing. It’s a nice thing to be proud of your heritage, as everyone should be, and I do go to the parade and swallow my share of stout in the Irish pubs, but I never understood the whole St. Patrick’s thing.

But that’s probably just me, because admittedly I don’t understand a lot of things.

Part of it may be because I wasn’t really raised with that whole in your face, “we’re Irish and you’re not” thing. Both my grandparents on my father’s side came over from the old sod, and settled in this little town of mine, but never acted as if they were proud to be anything thing other than naturalized American citizens.  Same on the Italian side.  There wasn’t a lot of talk about the “good old days” back in the “old country” because I think for the most part, there weren’t all that many of them. That’s pretty much why they came here.

When I would ask my Irish grandma, Nellie, about Ireland she would think for a minute and say, “It was very damp”. 

My Irish grandpa, Jim, would add, “And hilly…lots of hills”.

So you can see why I didn’t really get all the parades and green beer.

I don’t recall a lot of Irish songs of rebellion being played or sung. To this day I couldn’t quote the lyrics to one complete tune, but I do still wonder who threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder…and more importantly, why?

My dad liked to sing “McNamara’s Band” over and over, much to my Italian mom’s “delight”.  Our name was part of the lyrics, along with just about every Irish name there is, so that tickled him. The green beer might have had something to do with it, as well.

I know a lot of towns have big parades to celebrate the occasion, but for whatever reason, St. Patrick’s Day is not a big deal in my zip code.  You don’t find anyone painting a green line down Main Street or a parade of pipers and Irish dancers strutting their stuff down the Avenue….at least not in the light of day

Sure, we have our share of parties and events hosted by various organizations and clubs, and we do have one very good Irish pub, that stands out from all the rest…mostly because it’s the only Irish pub in town.  But it is a good one and worth checking out especially if you like Irish music and corn beef.

You know corn beef…that tasty Irish staple served with cabbage that most of us only make or partake of this one time of year? But we enjoy it so much we always wonder why we don’t have it more often, and so we always promise ourselves we will…and then forget about it until March rolls around again next year.

Speaking of food, having both Irish and Italian grandparents meant also having the experience of very different Sunday family meals.  On the Italian hand, I was treated to crispy Italian bread, always served with some sort of pasta—which my dad said all looked the same—and on special occasions a big dish of lasagna, alongside a mountain of meatballs, braciole, sausage, pork and other items, swimming in my grandma’s homemade gravy, that were mostly unidentifiable, probably for the better.

On the Irish hand, there was always a loaf of Irish soda bread, no matter what time of year, always served with some sort of beef— which my mom said still mooed—and on special occasions…more beef, alongside a  mountain of potatoes and  lots of different vegetables that were mostly unidentifiable, probably for the better.

Don’t get me wrong…it’s not that Grandma Nellie, never served pasta, but it usually involved opening a can…so it was different.  Then again, Grandma Daisy’s version of roast beef or steak…well, let me just say…it involved a lot of chewing.

So there were tradeoffs.

But the thing both families shared was a table full of smiles, good times and laughs. And on those occasions when the Irish and Italians came together, I never saw one or the other think of themselves as being anything other than family.

So on St. Patrick’s Day, when you’re donning your green carnation, hoisting your 6th pint of stout and waving your Irish flag, remember, it is a great day for the Irish, but also everyone else.

After all, when we say “everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s day”, aren’t we really saying everyone’s just the same. 

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could ever think otherwise….

Unless you drink to excess and urinate on a public building in broad daylight.

Then you’re on your own….


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  1. I had to laugh about the pasta in a can. Good old Franco American Spaghetti, a staple of life in days gone by!

  2. My sister said her children would eat anything if ketchup were on it, including spaghetti.

  3. My soda bread is baking as I write this and a corned beef dinner is planned for later because of my Irish husband. We are among those that say we will cook it more than once a year, but never do! Maybe this year...but probably not. Happy St. Paddy's Day to you and yours, Brian!

  4. It's starting to smell very much like Grandma Nellie's house, around here, too!

  5. What if you had been named Rocco or Giuseppe? Would your life have been changed in any way? Maybe free pizzas! .

    1. I'd have lost points off of my SATs for not being able to spell my name correctly...for sure.

  6. happy st paddy's day!! hope you enjoyed some corned beef and cabbage, brian!! this year i made it in the oven and it was fabulous, no turning back now....not to mention the shepherd's pie. if you were closer, i'd share.....

    1. Same to you, Nicole! CB&C both last night and tonight...Irish bread growing out my ears....


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