Friday, March 14, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

When I was a kid St. Patrick’s Day meant I could pinch anyone not wearing green.  I thought this was great fun until I forgot to wear green when I was eleven years old, and everyone I had ever pinched got even.  Now no one would even consider pinching this old fat man.  And I find that it’s best if I don’t try to pinch anyone else.
St. Patrick’s day was also a day for celebration of sorts.  I had heard of gatherings of people to eat boiled corned beef brisket, boiled cabbage, boiled potatoes, and dry soda bread.  But we did it a little different.
My family was a mix of cultures from Europe and a few other places.  My dad’s mother’s dad was an Irish ‘Adams’ but they had been in America since at least the late 1600’s and had missed out on developing many Irish (from Ireland) traditions.  To mix it up a little, my great-grandfather was also mixed with some Irish-Mexican and some Irish-Cherokee.  Then consider this branch of the family had been in Texas since the 1820’s.  Overall, my family possessed only a small percentage of Irish in the mixture, but in Texas it was enough to have at least some kind of a celebration on St. Patrick’s Day.
Our version of the corned beef brisket was simply to skip the corning process and just toss a fresh brisket onto the smoker for some twelve to sixteen hours.  During the last couple of hours a few cabbages made their way onto the smoker also.  Potatoes were usually baked or mashed in the kitchen, and bread was white sandwich bread, crackers, or tortillas.  And we mustn’t forget beverages.  Depending upon age we drank Dr. Pepper, Big Red, iced tea, or beer (Lone Star, Pearl, Shiner Bock, or any other Texas beer).
Over the years I began to appreciate the more traditional Irish-American approach to the celebration meal, although I never quite made friends with green beer.  I do, however, like warm brown soda bread with Irish butter.  This is good stuff.  Really good.  I find I could eat this stuff every day, but only if I make it fresh.  Stale Irish soda bread does not make me happy.
Every month the Long Beach Casting Club has a luncheon on the third Wednesday, and each March we have a traditional Irish-American St. Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef and cabbage.  I’m not certain, but I think this is the most attended lunch of the year.  Everyone nowadays seems to find a way to celebrate this most American of Irish days.
I recently was in communication with one of my last remaining family members who shares the same great-grandfather as me.  I asked if he was doing anything special for the day o’ the green, and he got all excited.  He told me he had just discovered a way to prepare brisket without firing up the smoker.  It’s called ‘corning’.  He told me all about it.  He told me all about it several times.  I suggested he make an extra one just to smoke after the corning process was over, and he got even more excited.  I didn’t tell him it’s been done before, and it’s called pastrami.  I think he’ll like the results.
Vern never lived outside of Texas, but that doesn’t mean his world is narrow.  As a Texan he has plenty to keep him occupied, but I have to admit there is another world of excitement to be found beyond the borders.  I just wish good barbeque was more readily available.  There is nothing quite like a Texas St. Patrick’s Day Barbeque.

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