As I write this, everyone is at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Newport, RI. I can picture this sunny day, the streets awash in green crepe paper and hats, Irish knit sweaters, babies and young girls with shamrock-painted faces, and guarded flasks of Jamieson in herringbone vest pockets. I hear police car sirens resonating over and over, even from here, the other side of the hill, leading the parade to its end at the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), where the celebration will be capped off with a traditional American – Irish boiled dinner, corned beef and cabbage.
AOH was created to protect Irish Catholic priests under the rule of English King Henry VIII, and it became a club, more or less, organized in early 19th century America as a way for the immigrant Irish to band together against the established Boston Brahmin “No Irish Need Apply” (NINA) directives, to promote forward thinking, interact and find work in their oh, so new world in America. There were two Hibernian organizations on Aquidneck Island, Rhode Island, originally, the first organized downtown in 1876.
James Bradley, who sailed across the Atlantic from Ireland at the turn of the 19th century, was a founder (according to the gold watch he received) of the uptown Hibernians, formed to educate and enrich the lives of new Irish immigrants, which met at the old Music Hall on Thames Street. James Bradley was Brad’s (my husband) grandfather, for whom he is named.
For over forty years, there has been nary a St. Patrick’s Day morning that Brad, as one of six children from a large Irish family, didn’t ask me, “Do you have the recipe?” referring to his cherished corned beef and cabbage, which is the traditional staple St. Paddy’s Day dinner, at least in the U.S.
I have always answered, “yes,” thinking: “What is there to do but boil the darn thing, chop the root veg and serve it?”
It always tastes the same, like a boiled dinner. The brisket has either cooked down to nothing or ended up too stringy for consumption for the past 43 years.
Last year on March 17th, low and behold, like clock-work: “Do you have the recipe?”
“Yes,” I answered, dreading the same inedible result. (more…)