To say it has been a rough winter in the Greater Boston area would be the gross understatement of the year. It was a winter that brought us what seemed like endless snow events as the meteorologists began calling blizzards, snow northeasters, and regular old snow storms; caused 8 or 9 days of school closings depending on the school system; countless school and business opening delays; a state of emergency or two where all non-essential vehicles were banned from our roads; the breaking of a record for the most snowfall and the delay of our local St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was supposed to be held on Saturday, March 7th but it was delayed three weeks until March 28th. Parade officials were concerned that we would not only have a snow event since we were having lots of them but that the parade route would be lined with snow banks not spectators.
Ironically there were no snow events on March 7th, the sky was sunny and clear but there was lots and lots of snow piles. When the parade was held on March 28th, much of the snow was gone but Mother Nature decided to play an early April Fool’s joke on the Irish and the Irish for the day by blanketing us with a steady showering of snow. So, our St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Lawrence looked like Christmas and was held the day before Palm Sunday.
On St. Patrick’s Day itself I prepared a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner and posted the following on Twitter and Facebook.
I had intended that my next Saturday Supper post would be published on March 21st. But on the First Day of Spring, I decided to take a walk over to the softball field near my house to check on the amount of snow still on the fields.
.And then this happened …
As the luck of the Irish would have it, I slipped on a combination of ice, snow and pothole debris walking to the softball field. Luckily there are no broken bones just torn ligaments in my wrist and knee. My IPhone even survived thanks to the screen saver the Verizon salesperson talked me into buying. The screensaver did not survive but it did its job.
The following week, I was unable to type and stayed off my feet for as much as humanly possible. I shouldn’t be typing as much as I am now, but I am stubborn and when I overdo it I spend the next day icing my wrist and/or knee. This happens several times a week.
But back to my St. Patrick’s Day Dinner …
Much to the dismay of my English and French-Canadian father, my sisters and I grew up identifying with the Italian part of our family. My father’s family moved to Los Angeles when my oldest sister was a baby and both our grandparents passed away by the time I was in first grade. Since we did not have much interaction with Dad’s side of the family, we did not identify with either being English or French-Canadian nor did we maintain any traditions based on those cultures in our home.
My mother’s parents were Italian and Irish. My grandfather was an only child and by the time my sisters and I came along he had no living family except for one cousin he never saw. My grandmother’s family was the side of our family that influenced us the most. My sisters and I grew up being part of a large and oftentimes loud Italian-American family.
We identified ourselves as being Italian except two days a year – St. Patrick’s Day and the Sunday nearest St. Patrick’s Day. On those two days we were Irish. I grew up watching my Italian grandmother and my mother cook a traditional corned beef dinner for my Irish grandfather and our extended Irish for the day family gathered around Nana’s dining room table on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick’s Day.
My mom and nana were skilled cooks, who didn’t panic when cooking something without a recipe. I on the other hand go into a state of high alert when I do not have a recipe to fall back on. Such was the case on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day. My oldest sister, who has been the recipient of countless calls from me since our mom died that start out “Do you remember how Mom … “was already at work. My level of panic was moving into full alert. I knew I didn’t have everything I wanted for my dinner. Missing were a can or two of Guinness, grey corned beef, turnip and parsnips to go with the red corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes in my kitchen.
I decided to call my aunt who was coming down for dinner anyway and see if she would come downstairs to my apartment and monitor my corned beef activity. Surprisingly, she passed on the opportunity to spend time with me, told me it would be okay without the missing ingredients, and to just put everything in a pot and add the cabbage in last. She was wrong about the Guinness; because at least one of the cans of Guinness would have helped steel my nerves.
I put the red corned beef brisket into a stock pot filled with water and simmered it on low. I estimated the amount of time it needed to cook at 3 ½ hours to 4 hours from reading the package instructions (something to be said for buying my corned beef in a cryovac package from the grocery store as opposed to from the butcher).
While the corned beef was simmering, I prepared the vegetables.
I peeled the carrots and cut them into thirds. Had the carrots been organic or come from a local farm/farmers market, I would have just washed them leaving the peel and depending on the size not cut them.
I quartered the potatoes, adding a few more than shown above about 3 – 4 lbs. of potatoes.
I cored and quartered the cabbage (which made for big pieces of cabbage but it held together and did not get mushy).
After cooking the corned beef for about 2 ½ hours, I began to add the vegetables.
Carrots first, followed by potatoes about 15 minutes later, and then cabbage 15 minutes following the potatoes.
If I had parsnips, turnip or another cut of corned beef, I would have had to use another stockpot like my mom and nana did.
My aunt came down for dinner and I prepared a takeout package for my friend and her children.
And each one of them gave me rave reviews.
Ultimately to answer the question I posted on Facebook and Twitter, I think my great grandmother Sarah Carter would be proud of my results (as would my Italian nana and my Mom).
But next year, I am remembering the Guinness.