Outside of a Thanksgiving turkey or a medium rare steak on a backyard grill is there any aroma that is more inviting than corned beef in a slow cooker?
In my house, that fantastic smell permeates every room around St. Patrick’s Day. Throw some cabbage, potatoes and carrots in there and man my stomach starts growling.
Nothing says St. Patty’s Day in America like corned beef.
But that sweet meaty perfume says more to me than dinner/lunch/breakfast time. When my nose gets a whiff of corned beef my brain jumps back in time.
My first memories of St. Patrick’s Day go obviously to my childhood in the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland. I spent my grade school years at a little school we like to call St. Pat’s.
The school has since been renamed and the adjoining church has been shuttered by the diocese but for many who grew up with and around me we can still see it clear as day.
I remember sitting in the church with the entire student body everyone waiting for the annual spectacle that was sure to come.
And then you would hear it.
The big base drums would start; boom, boom.
Then the snares would kick in. The whole church would start to shake and the pew you were sitting in would vibrate. All heads would turn to the back of the church and the girls in the drill team would begin their procession. Some would have flags. Some would have batons. Many more would have green and white pom-poms to match their green and white uniforms. They would march up the center aisle, their footsteps adding to the vibration.
I think I had a crush on half the girls in the drill team for that brief moment.
But alas St. Patrick Church which was founded on St. Patrick’s Day in 1848 saw its last patron saint’s feast in 2010. Many of us hope and pray future generations are afforded the opportunity for the same memories we have.
Not to be too centered around food on this weekend, but I can still taste my mother’s Irish soda bread.
If you have the opportunity to try Irish soda bread you must make sure you are close to the oven when it comes out. There is a direct correlation between the amount of time it has been out of the oven and its palatability. If you wait a few days you can actually use it to break your car window if you happen to get too inebriated over the joyous holiday and lock your keys inside.
Just make sure you hand them off and get in the passenger seat.
And the parade, yes we must talk about the parade.
This is the most important aspect of St. Patrick’s Day. Not because of the celebration but because what it brings about. This year the parade will be on Saturday and the weather will be perfect. Hence the crowd will be larger than ever.
Everyone will be wearing green and buying big green and white hats or “Kiss Me I’m Irish” buttons from street vendors. You can stand curb side and see pipe and drum bands march by one right after the other. Give the parade participants a round of applause as they go by because for one day each year these people do something that no one else in the city or the surrounding area can do.
For one day we, the citizens of northeast Ohio come together as one to celebrate. It is true most people do not know what they are celebrating they just know they are there with everyone else to have a good time. Go downtown and stand by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and look around at the crowd. There are people of every color, race, religion…. Oh you get it.
There is an old expression, “We are all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day”.
Never before has this city, this state, this country needed something to come together around. Our recent history has been mired in what seems to be one political upheaval after another. It seems you cannot turn on your television or read anything in print without having a political argument inserted into it anymore. But on March 17th we have the opportunity to put all that behind us.
We lost St. Patrick Church two years ago.
The older generations with the traditional recipes are staring to thin. We won’t hear the drums or see the girls shaking their pom-poms this year. But we still have that great Cleveland tradition that brings one and all to Public Square to put on the green and party like only the Irish can.
But don’t forget the corned beef.