St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef: NOT SO IRISH
Today, more people around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than would fit in the country. But first, who is Patrick? Patrick was believed to be born in Roman Britain (Scotland), the son of a wealthy family. His name was Maewyn Succat. He was kidnapped when he was 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped after, he said, God told him to run from his captors to the shore, where a boat would be waiting for him to take him back to Scotland. He fled, the boat was there and he headed home, but he didn’t stay.
He returned to Ireland as a priest using the name Patrick. He worked there for the rest of his life to convert the Irish, who, at the time, practiced Celtic polytheism (Celtic paganism). While he was never officially canonized, his followers regarded him as a “saint in heaven,” thus he received a feast day from the Roman Catholic Church and the title of “saint”. Until the 1970s, St. Patrick’s Day was a religious celebration in Ireland, and all the pubs in the country were closed. Laws were later passed to open up the pubs for celebrations on March 17, and soon after, the country’s leaders decided to market the holiday, highlighting Irish culture for tourism purposes.
So, what’s with the corned beef and cabbage celebration? The fact is corned beef and cabbage is as Irish as a Shamrock Shake. It is believed that is took its roots in New York City in the late 1700’s. If this was a true Irish celebration, the meal would probably be Irish Stew and Soda bread. However, pork, which was plentiful and cheap in Ireland, was scarce and very expensive in the new USA. Beef was the popular, inexpensive meat. Cheap cabbage replaced potatoes. But why corned beef? Roman Catholics corned their beef for preservation which was more prevalent through the Lenten season. So, corned beef was just what was available, and it was a cheap and flavorful meal that could feed the whole family, at the time.
Now, corned beef is boiled, braised, smoked, etc. on a plate or piled high on marble rye bread. Many of us may only eat it this one time a year. However, when you find a good place to get it, or you find you can make, it still remains a hearty, flavorful, economical meal.