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Corned beef and cabbage

March 17th, 2004 · 1 Comment

Growing up, all I did for St. Patrick’s Day was wear green so I wouldn’t get pinched and teased at school. (then again one could always claim “green underwear”!) Maybe somewhere I’d get a shamrock cookie with sprinkles so vivid my tongue would turn color for the week but I don’t think I’d ever had corned beef and cabbage until today.

While at a large grocery store last month, I spied frozen no-nitrate uncured gray corned beef . Despite the unappetizing name (gray?), curiosity got the best of me and I bought one. This afternoon I baked it for three hours, adding a mustard, marmalade and brown sugar coating. Taking it out of the package, I could already smell the spices, peppercorns and bay leaves covering the surface, and the beef did a great job tempting us all with its aroma. And unlike some other meals I’ve made, it lived up to the olfactory allure. The kids and Ted kept eating it. I served it with cabbage – stir-fried in the work, for a Chinese twist – and purple potatoes.

Researching corned beef and cabbage on the web, I discovered that it would have probably been more authentic Irish to serve soda bread. Or maybe just soda water. Few families could afford beef. Or much at all to eat. And the corned beef cabbage combo is an American creation. This reminds me of the cultural impression that fortune cookies are Chinese when they were invented in Los Angeles. Ah, impressions aren’t always what you think.

This cliche cooking is probably the most we’ve ever done as a family for St. Paddy’s Day. When we were first married, I remember teasing my husband once that he wasn’t wearing green and he replied “Do I look Irish?” I had to laugh. Irish is not what comes to mind when looking at my beloved Ted .

Tonight when Ted and I were talking about the corned beef, neither one of us could remember eating it before.
“You’ve never had it?” Ted asked me.
“Do I look Irish?” I countered.
If one of us could pass for Irish, it could be me. I’ve got a nice American mutt heritage with a lot of mix in it. My heritage has been tranced back to at least a few northern European countries. But Ireland isn’t one of them.

So I enjoyed Joey deVilla’s post today Spot the O’Hara:

In the photo below, which person is the direct descendant of an Irish-American school teacher named James O’Hara? The born-in-Manila mocha-skinned gentleman on the left, or the sweet red-haired-and-freckled lass on the right?

It’s a great story to read. I learned a lot. 🙂 Thanks, Joey.
Hope you had a happy St. Patrick’s Day, Accordion Guy and The Redhead too.

Tags: food

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Mar 19, 2004 at 12:59 am

    Although I have Irish from both my parents’ sides back there somewhere, and so does David (mom’s side only), neither of us remembered it was St. Patrick’s Day. He happened to wear a green shirt by chance. I had a little green in the floral pattern on my skirt. Emily had the same on her shorts. Jason was wearing green/tan camouflage shorts. So we were unwittingly okay.