Tomorrow, March 17, is Saint Paddy’s day. So for those of us who missed the brutish fun of the Ides of March, we needn’t sulk, there is a lot of revelry to be had on this day. Although it has been an official Christian Feast Day since the sixteen hundreds, March 17 has, like a pop/country song, crossed over; it is now one of the more raucous of celebrations in the spring calendar, celebrated annually all over the world.
One of the reasons it has grabbed our attention is because March 17 falls pretty much in the middle of Lent for Catholics, the six week period of abstinence that precedes Easter. On Saint Paddy’s day, the Church lifts its prohibition of alcohol, the one day in Lent when you can drink and party. So it’s no wonder that this feast day caught on, for Irish, for Catholics, and for those of us that sat next to them in class and studied their ways.
Since we will be celebrating, here are a few facts we should be aware of:
-First of all, It’s “Saint Paddy’s Day”, not “Saint Patty’s Day”
-“Patrick” ( 384 A.D.-461 A.D.) was from a wealthy Roman-British
– As a teenager he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave, working as a shepherd for years until he escaped back to Britain where he became a priest (his father had been a deacon).
– He returned to Northern Ireland as an evangelist and began converting the locals-thousands of them- to Christianity from their traditional Celtic beliefs and religious heritage.
– He died March 17, 461 A.D. and is now considered Ireland’s foremost Saint.
-He used the shamrock to explain how the Holy Trinity works; father son and holy ghost as three parts of the same thing. This is why the shamrock-and the colour green-figure so prominently in Irish/St Patrick’s Day iconography
-Saint Patrick’s day has been a national holiday in Ireland since 1903, and has been celebrated in Montreal since 1759, when Irish soldiers, fighting for Britain were stationed there fighting the French for the conquest of New France (Quebec). Montreal is actually bullish on Saint Paddy’s day, it has held a parade annually since 1824, and there is even a shamrock in Montreal’s flag.
So what now that you know a little about this annual celebration it is time to celebrate. If you missed the Saint Patrick’s Day paradeon Sunday, don’t sweat it. The best Irish pubs and saloons all over town will be rockin’ tomorrow, so if you plan on hitting one, get there early; specials on drinks, Guinness, traditional Irish music and Irish fare will be the order of the day. The Galway Arms ,
McVeigh’s Irish Pub , Fynn’s of Temple Bar, Fion MacCool’s and The Irish Embassy are just five Irish pubs waiting to give you a little luck of the Irish.Of course if this all seems a bit daunting, and you would rather stay in tomorrow night, why not break out the Dutch oven and cook up a batch of Ireland’s National Dish, Irish Stew. And don’t forget the green food colouring. On Saint Paddy’s Day the beer is green!
Traditional Irish Stew
- 2-3 tbsp oil
- 1 lb/500g lamb cut into 2″ chunks
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 cup onion, roughly chopped
- 1 cup leeks, white part only cleaned and finely sliced
- 1 cup carrots, roughly chopped
- 1½ pints dark beef stock
- 2 or 3 cabbage leaves, thinly sliced
- Salt and Pepper
Heat the oven to 350 F
Season the lamb well with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan heat half the oil and add half the lamb pieces and brown all over. Remove the lamb and place in the Dutch oven. Cover with half the potatoes, onions, leeks and carrots. Add the remaining oil to the frying pan, add the rest of the lamb and brown all over. Add to the casserole and cover with the remaining vegetables. Add the flour to the frying pan and stir well to soak up any fat and juices. Cook on a gentle heat for 3 minutes then add stock a ladle at a time until you have a thick gravy, pour over the lamb and vegetables. Add the remaining stock to the Dutch oven, cover with lid, cook in the oven for 1 hour. Add the cabbage and replace the lid and cook for another hour. Check from time to time to make sure the stock isn’t reducing too much, if it is add a little boiling water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.