Tag: St. Patrick’s Day

When Everybody’s Irish, And Should Be

by Staci Troilo

I’m part Irish, although I know more about my Italian heritage than the other side of my family. But today, I happily claim my Celtic roots. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, one and all!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I don’t know much about how my dad’s side of the family celebrated this feast day. I’m pretty sure there was beer involved. (There was beer at all Smith family functions, so that’s a safe bet.) But I can tell you how my mom’s side of the family celebrated it: with Italian food. My grandmother made all sorts of Italian meals for my grandfather. St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t have been an exception.

I make an effort to expose my kids to all cultures (yes, I’m partial to our Italian heritage, but I’m not rigid). My children studied martial arts for several years (my son holds a second degree black belt and my daughter a first degree), and on Chinese New Year one year, their Master had them participate in the dragon dance… a smaller version re-enacted in their school, but the parade was still something to see. We also had traditional dishes that I still make every Chinese New Year at home. On Cinco de Mayo, I make enchiladas suizas and tres leche cake. And of course I make something Italian on Columbus Day.

It probably goes without saying that I’d make an Irish meal for St. Patrick’s Day. (What can I say? I teach in the kitchen.) We have friends who grew up in Ireland. (You should hear them speak. Such lovely brogues!) We’ve learned a lot about Ireland and Irish history just from their stories.

Last year we were blessed to have my husband’s parents here with us. They are full Italian, just like my mother. Not only did we get to enjoy their company that week, I got to share a little bit of my heritage with my in-laws.

irish mealI didn’t just have my kids in the kitchen with me, I had my mother-in-law, too. We made Irish soda bread, Guinness stew, mashed potatoes, and cabbage. Dessert was Irish coffee, which the kids didn’t get, but it was Lent, and we all have to make sacrifices. The meal was delicious, and the company was even better. As we ate, we discussed the fact that just a generation earlier, a meal like that would have been difficult to have. When my parents started dating—an Italian Catholic girl and an Irish/German/Scottish/Swedish Lutheran boy—some in our hometown frowned on mixing cultures. Luckily my grandparents could see past the labels to what great people my parents were. Are.

If they hadn’t, I might not be here today.

And my kids wouldn’t be here, learning about the Irish culture.

Today, my in-laws aren’t here. Our meal will be smaller, less festive, but just as poignant. We’ll discuss my heritage—my children’s heritage—and how important it is to celebrate our differences. And accept them.

St. PatrickSt. Patrick was kidnapped from Scotland as a youth and after escaping, went to Ireland where he lived in poverty, worked many miracles, and preached and converted the people for forty years. His tool of choice? The shamrock (three leaves on one stalk), which represented the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all in one entity). St. Patrick wasn’t always accepted, not even in his own country. I’m grateful to live in a land of tolerance and diversity, and although we’re celebrating a day when everybody is Irish, I’m proud of my heritage, proud of my differences. We shouldn’t be afraid to show who we are or where we came from.

It’s our differences that make us unique, make us interesting, make us inimitable. (like that? tweet it)

We should all be Irish today, and then we should all celebrate our heritage, because then we’d be celebrating what makes us who we are.

For Writers:

Just as we as families have different heritages we can draw from for different experiences, as authors, we need to capitalize on different incidents in our lives to get the most out of our writing.

It’s time to stop playing it safe. They say “write what you know,” and that’s fine, but that doesn’t always mean “write what you’re comfortable with.” (like that? tweet it)

I’m not necessarily telling you to change genres, or switch from fiction to nonfiction. But is there some hidden story, some dark truth in your past that you’ve been itching to explore? Something that you want to talk about, a story begging to be told that the world needs to hear, but you’ve been putting it off because it’s ugly, or uncomfortable?

Now’s the time.

If your writing seems ho-hum, it’s because you aren’t being true to yourself, to what you really want to say, to what’s really inside. (like that? tweet it)

Open up that cookbook and see what it has to offer. There’s a whole world of palates to explore, flavors to discover.

Rise to the challenge. You might surprise yourself.

Irish Soda Bread and Other Traditions:

irish soda breadHere’s something, literally from the family cookbook.
If you’re looking for an easy Irish recipe to celebrate with today, here’s one to try. It’ll be gracing our table tonight.
Maybe you’d like to share a tradition or a recipe in the comments below.

Irish Soda Bread:

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the dried fruit
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants, raisins, or cranberries

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2) Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
3) With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.
4) Combine the dried fruit with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
5) Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.
6) Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Laci and Del: A Wee Bit O’ Picking

It’s the first Friday of the month. Time for another installment of short fiction. You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF), by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.

Remember that 2014 is the year I’m trying serial work. This is part 3 of 12: Laci and Del: A Wee Bit O’ Picking.

Laci and Del: A Wee Bit O’ Picking

wee bit o' irishIt was an irritant somewhere in her brain, picking away at her comfort zone.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

If Laci had felt nervous before Valentine’s Day, she was positively panicked afterward. The first month and a half of the year had gone more smoothly than she could have hoped after their years apart, then Del had to go and up the stakes with the perfect Valentine’s date: just the right mix of recreation and romance.

Since then she’d been a wreck.

He had dialed everything back to casual, but she knew it was a fake casual. They were past that. He’d taken them past that.

She kept going to movies with him, sharing meals, discussing their days, meeting for coffee, but she knew, she knew, those things weren’t innocuous. It was more than merely food, entertainment, and mindless chatter. They mattered to him. And if she was honest with herself, they all mattered to her, too.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

It was a month after their perfect date, and he hadn’t said anything, hadn’t put any pressure on her—none at all, in fact—but she felt it. Because over the last week, he’d spent less and less time with her. Time was running out. She had to choose.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

Commit or move on.

Pick.

Whatever was fiddling around in her head believed in divide and conquer, because some of it had gone to work in her stomach. She thought about making a bowl of soup, but took some antacid instead.

Pick.

St. Patrick’s Day was Monday. Because of his heritage, it used to be one of Del’s favorite days of the year. He had proven to her that he still knew her well. Maybe it was time to see how well she still knew him. She sat down with a notebook and pen and got to work.

On Monday evening, Laci’s doorbell rang at 5:30, right when she expected it. She straightened her green silk dress under her apron and answered the door.

He must have had a hard day, because he’d already taken off his jacket, untucked his shirt, loosened his collar, and undone his tie. His hair was mussed, like he’d been running his hand through it in frustration, and he was looking at his phone with a frown on his face. But when she greeted him, he pocketed his phone and the stress lines smoothed into a lazy grin. “You look gorgeous. What’s the occasion?”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him into her apartment. She looked gorgeous? One of her favorite looks on Del was his done-with-the-business-day look. His five o’clock shadow was coming in and his clothes were starting to come off… he had that perfect blend of elegant and casual that really got to her. “Are you kidding me? Delany Keegan doesn’t know what today is?”

He thought for a second and shook his head. “Sorry, babe. The last week’s been pretty rough. Today was a real killer. Let me think… It’s not a birthday. Not an anniversary. What am I missing?”

She reached behind her and slowly untied her apron, watching his every reaction.

His gaze followed her hands. He swallowed and smiled, clearly expecting a lot more to come.

Instead of removing her apron, she lifted it to him and said, “Read it.”

“What?” He chuckled, clearly not expecting that turn of events.

“What’s it say?”

He looked at her for a moment, then he looked down at the apron and read it. “Kiss Me. I May Have a Wee Bit O’ Irish in Me.” He smiled. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day.”

She spoke with her best brogue, which wasn’t that good, but was serviceable. “It is indeed, Delany Keegan. And you should be ashamed for neglecting your heritage like that. Forgetting our day. And not even wearing o’ the green! You know what that means!” She reached out and pinched him.

He tossed his jacket on the sofa and spoke in a brogue far better than Laci’s. “You get one free one, Laci Marks. Try it again, and I pinch back.”

She giggled and said, “You better not if you want to put a wee bit o’ Irish in me later!” and ran into the kitchen. He was close on her heels. She turned to ward off his advance, but he had stopped short. “Del? What’s wrong?”

He was staring at her table. “What did you do?” he asked, his voice low, soft.

The nerves were back again, working overtime. Pick. Pick. Pick. “I made dinner. We’ve been eating together almost every night, anyway. I just decided to cook tonight instead of us going out.”

She needed something to do with her hands, so she took her apron off. For the second time that night, she waited while he looked her over, head to toe. At the door, he just appraised her beauty, and she appreciated it. But in the kitchen, he assessed the intent behind her efforts, and it made her squirm. Then he turned toward the table, where she had already placed homemade soda bread, Colcannon potatoes, corned beef, and a steaming pot of Irish stew. Tall glasses of Guinness were at each place setting. He didn’t even know that coffee was already brewed for after dinner, Irish if he wanted it that way, to accompany an Irish cream chocolate cheesecake that she’d baked the day before. She bit her lip while she waited for his analysis to end.

“You did all this?”

She shrugged. “It’s no big deal.” Fidgeting under his stare, she continued. “We have to eat, right?”

He crossed to her and took her by the shoulders, forcing her to face him, but she stared at the floor. “Laci, look at me.”

She couldn’t quite manage it.

“Laci,” he whispered.

She looked up into his eyes and saw that he was searching for answers. Answers she was frightened to give.

“Did you do all this for me?”

She nodded. “I know your mother makes this meal every year. I wanted to make sure you got to eat your family feast, even if you were with me instead of them.”

He smiled, and his eyes stopped questioning her. Instead, they held answers. Those were the eyes that she’d once fallen in love with. Eyes that once held the promise of a future, of children, of growing old together. Of a lifetime. She saw those things again.

It was frightening.

And exhilarating.

“Your apron said I’m supposed to kiss you.” He pulled her into his embrace.

Everything had changed.

She had picked.

What if she’d made a mistake?

An Italian’s Take on St. Patrick’s Day

LeprechaunYesterday was St. Patrick’s Day. I tend to relate most strongly with my Italian roots, so I don’t mention my father’s heritage often, but it seems only fair to acknowledge it on the one day a year his nationality gets top billing.

My dad is a wonderful man whose heritage is a volatile mix of Irish, Scottish, German, and Swedish. So, yes, in addition to the passionate Italian in me, I’ve got some whiskey-downing, Scotch-swilling, beer-chugging, Viking-loving blood coursing through these veins. There’s some partying blood in there, and there’s some warrior blood in there, too. So, it’s no surprise I’m not a shy person. I embrace life to its fullest, which means I love big, I cry big, and I get mad… big. Why do anything half-hearted?

irish mealI also celebrate big, which means yesterday’s holiday was a festive one, especially because my in-laws are in town to celebrate with us. (Yes, I’ll use anything as an excuse to celebrate, but come on, a holiday and family visiting? Who wouldn’t celebrate?) Beer, Irish stew, cabbage, potatoes, soda bread… even Irish coffees for dessert.

After all that, I swear I saw a leprechaun with his shillelagh in my yard, holding a four leaf clover sitting on his pot of gold. But before I got outside to greet him, he disappeared over the rainbow, and it was just me in the yard trying to keep my dogs out of the pool, which, I have to tell you, is not easy under the best of circumstances.

Now it’s time to settle back into Lenten restrictions until Easter. So, I’ll leave you with this Irish blessing as I countdown the remaining weeks:

May you always have walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire.

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