A French Fry By Any Other Name

Word to Your Spud
Potatoes. The Goth’s of the veggie world. Cut out it’s eyes, rip off its skin, or bake it alive an it‘s happy as a chowder clam. It’s still satisfies despite the poor treatment. And this coming weekend Potatoes are front and center for St. Pat. Spuds will get their proper respects by being part of an internationally celebrated St. Patrick’s Day tradition, the corned beef and cabbage dinner. Wait!! Now that I think about it not very respectful to this tuber. Not even a mention in the dishes name. Why the hell isn’t it a potato, corned beef, cabbage and carrot dinner? The potato has been one of the most loyal and versatile foods in history. Why these starchy delicious starches have been around longer than the Inca’s even inhabited its birth land. Estimated to have made the scene sometime between 8000 an 5000 BCE this now undisputed king of starchy sides was ripped from the Inca kitchens and transported all the way back to Spain, where they ungratefully prefer rice!! Undaughnted by the apparent haters the tater spread through Europe and became an important crop all over the world. Such a regal line the potato had few challengers to its throne due to being genetically challenged in diversity and was not imitated with the usual number of varietal clones. That led to the (Not So) Great Potato Famine that nearly decimated Ireland and leaving those corned beef pots spudless.
Undeterred by a lack of genetic engineering it didn’t take long before we humans added hundreds of new varieties, and even a new color or two. The potato stands alone as a global masterpiece of nature. Every continent, every culture, and every kitchen on earth bows to it’s infinite array of uses. A thickening agent, a must have in chowders, an arsenal of side uses that rival the chickens reign of culinary versatility, a research plant, skin burn protector, adhesives and quite possibly a source of biodegradable plastic in the near future. It’s even used to distill for alcohol in the making of delicious hearty and buzz worthy vodka, Scandinavia’s unusual caraway flavored Aquavit, and Poland’s Potcheen, an alcoholic beverage so freaking potent it was banned in Ireland for over a century. Yes the potato, such a superhero of the culinary set it should be marketed wearing a cape and a giant “P” on its chest! ….maybe not , but you dig what I‘m saying!!
So this St. Paddy’s day go ahead and cook or enjoy your traditional Irish one pot meal, but when you do take a minute or two out to salute that iamond in the ruff Gothic starch that has an entire year dedicated to it. That’s right, I said an entire year. In 2008, The United Nations convened in an attempt to give the potato is due by proclaiming it The International Year Of The Potato. But even then it got dissed as they forced it to share it’s 366 days of that leap year. 2008 was also the International Year Of Sanitation. Cleanliness is next to godliness, an the potato stood side by side with sanitation so by my calculations, potatoes ARE godliness. So enjoy, and if you are feeling the activist maybe even start a petition to officially rename the classic Irish meal Corned Beef and Potato!!…………………Peace

When The Saint Comes Marching In

Don’t Pee On My Parade and Tell Me Its Rain
There’s a parade coming to my town Saturday and I don’t want to be the one to rain on anyones parade, but someone has to do it. So as they elected the Grand Marshall of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, I have elected my self the Grand Marshall of questioning what all the shenanigans are about. More importantly just who is this Patrick dude, why is he a saint, and why are we celebrating him anyway?
The Feast of Saint Patrick. Celebrated in many parts of the world, The UK, Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and of course here in my county, America. Even more localized the parade in my town of Nutley New Jersey will be this Saturday, because that’s the only day the bagpipers had open. Apparently here in America there is a shortage of men in skirts squeezing a bag with various pipe sticking out of it that makes haunting sounding music. New York City has the monopoly on pipers due to the huge going-ons in the city. It’s an official celebration here in New York every year beginning with the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They love their parades in Manhattan, and more than that they love the party and revelry that is mistaken as a free pass to exercise extreme inebriation and tomfoolery. “Step out of the road my dear lady there’s a parade coming through.” Every Irish pub is filled to the rafters with either Irish or temporary Irish folk singing Irish tunes. Maybe I should say slurring Irish tunes, many in manbraces swaying to the country sounding tunes of Ireland. People come in buses, trains, and cars from all around the area to get drunk and share overplayed jokes like “More like Erin go Braless,“ or “Kiss me I’m drunk.” After the parade the city is packed with people who celebrate the day by excessive drinking which somehow translates into being Irish. The bars serve green beer which as I’ve heard it told, turns ones urine a pastel lime green. But allow me to back up a little and investigate why March 17th became such a decadent celebration here.
Patrick is the patron saint, or heavens advocate, for the Republic of Ireland. He lived from AD 385-461 and passed away on March 17th. That explains some of the heavy drinking and carousing and basic mayhem surrounding this day as it’s a ginourmous multi-country funeral repast. If you’ve ever been to an Irish funeral you know what I mean. When a friend or family member passes away we throw a party and instead of sitting around crying we have copious amounts of raisin‘ the glass. I guess it a kind of last hurrah and we get drunk, sing songs, stuff our gullets with food, and remember all the great times we had with the deceased. Clearly Patrick is more than just a passing acquaintance because the party returns year after year. What makes him so special?
Not much is known about this mysterious saint, but from what I was able to find out he was born a Deacons son in an area once known as the Romano-British culture and not in Ireland at all. This has led to all kinds of confusion, the Romans claiming he is Italian, and the United Kingdom assuring he was a Brit. Whatever! He was kidnapped by some Irish raiders and held prisoner. While in prison God talked to him and told him to escape and go back to his home which he did. There he became a bishop. As a Bishop he went back to Ireland, moving diagonally as Bishops do, and was told by God this time to help convert the Irish into Catholicism. In a vision he was asked to be the “Voice of the Irish”.
So it was that Patrick headed into Ireland and began what today would be called “Bishop Patrick’s Catholic Revival,” He set about baptizing, ordaining, and basically teaching the doctrines of Christianity to the Irish people. One particular lesson was the teaching of the Holy Trinity and its rumored he reached down and plucked a three leaf clover as a visual aid. So impressed were his students they embraced the shamrock as a national symbol and it remains synonymous with Ireland to this very day. The wearing of shamrocks on their clothes and patches strengthened the resolve of that symbol and long after Patrick was gone in 1798 Irish soldiers took it a step further and wore all green uniforms. That gave us the famous “wearing of the green” ritual. Patrick had become the icon of Ireland. One of the more dramatic claims of Patty was how he banned the snakes from Ireland. Truthfully, snakes would find it difficult to migrate there so its true there are no indigenous snakes, so methinks it was a metaphor for evil assholes. Anyway, according to Eugene O’Neil, St. Patrick tossed all the snakes of Ireland into the Atlantic Ocean where they swam across to New York an became cops… What? It could happen!
Here in America along with the drinking and parade we also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. This I find amusing because there is not a huge following of this meal in Ireland. It’s about as Irish as apple pie. You will however find it very often in a New England Boiled Dinner. I believe it is jut a small touch of confusion. Ireland is largely a farming and herding country. That means hours and hours in the fields working hard. The women folk worked even harder, taking care of all the chores around the house as well as some of the farming or herding tasks. They were responsible to have food on the table at the end of the day and like many hard working women completed it by making a slow cooked stew or boiled meal. Dinner was created in a one pot vessel on a stove. One pot meal. A casserole. The meat in first, later the potatoes, then the carrots, and so on. Like Goulash, Tagine, Duchie, Bourguignon, Cachupa, and tons of cultural stew dishes were born this way. Corning, or curing was popularized during the industrial revolution but even before that meats had to be preserved somehow on the long boat trips across the Atlantic to America. So early colonist in America likely ate a lot of cured and pickled foods. A more traditional Irish dinner would include seafood like prawns and salmon around the area of Dublin Bay, or lamb with potatoes and sausage in the farmlands. I imagine Patrick himself would get a kick out of watching us celebrate being Irish by drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage. I’m relatively certain he would more likely have some advice for us along the lines of kiss my Irish ass but we party the way we party.
Or maybe he would prefer the wise Irish advice I got from my Mum and Dad. My dear old Dad always told me to celebrates it with an Irish seven course meal. A six pack of Guinness and a baked potato. My Mum told me the Irish are exceptionally good at one of two things, loving or fighting. At six foot four you might think I would be a good fighter, but alas I am not. But lover? Many would be green with envy but that’s a horse of a different color!…………………PEACE