The Irish are known for being clever, particularly when it comes to getting out of a sticky situation. So it’s only natural they have such a glorious celebration on March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day, celebrating all things Irish.
And it’s not just the humans who are clever. So are our animals, as this story demonstrates.
Many years ago a wealthy Irish man decided to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by going on Safari to Africa. And he took along his faithful Irish Setter for company.
One day the dog started chasing butterflies and before long he discovered he was lost. While wandering about he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the obvious intention of having lunch.
The dog thinks, “Boyo, I’m in deep trouble now.”
Most of us think of October 31 as Halloween, a time to dress up in costumes and make merry. But Halloween history tells of so much more.
In Celtic times, it was a time to honor those who have gone before us. The masked figures represent the spirits of the dead: our ancestors.
A Wee Bit of Celtic Halloween History
The ancient Celts, going back 4,500 years, divided each year into the dark half and the light half. The end of the light half was marked by Samhain [pron. Sow-ihn], a time when they were stockpiling food for the winter and giving thanks to the Sun God.
It is also a time of year when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest – an appropriate time to invite the souls of the dead to come back for a visit. Candles kept in the window guide the souls back home and a place is set at the table for them.
Next week being a major Celtic spiritual day, I wanted to lead up to it with one of my favorite Irish stories. Please pardon the colloquialisms; you must imagine it being spoken with an Irish brogue:
There was a man there long ago, and he had a great name for himself as being very holy.
He was the first up to the chapel on Sunday, and there was never a mission he wasn’t at, praying all around him. And he was being held up as a good example to the sinners as a very holy man that never missed his duty.
Well, he said to himself, it would be a good thing for him to count all the times he was at Mass, so he got a big timber box and he made a hole in the cover of it, and he locked the box so that no one could interfere with it in any way, and he hid the key where no one could possibly find it.
This recipe for Irish Soda Bread comes from my Nana Sue, born in Larah, County Caven. A warm woman with a sharp wit, she raised six children and loved to cook. This recipe has been handed down to each generation.
Best served fresh from the oven, I swear men have asked me to marry them after tasting it.
Other than the marriage proposals, the best part is that it’s not a yeast bread, so it’s very easy to make. It’s the interaction of the baking soda and buttermilk that makes it rise.
This is standard fare at my house in March, and not just on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s divine!
Serve 6 -8
- 3 lb. corned beef brisket [if it comes with a spice packet I use that plus the spices below, so it's double spiced]
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 12 peppercorns
- 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” chunks
- 8 baby carrots, peeled
- 1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
- 1 leek, sliced [white and tenderest green part only]
- 1 small cabbage, cut into 8 wedges [remove the outer leaves first]
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 six-pack Bass Ale or beer of choice [very important – beer is the secret ingredient].