A few more days until Spring officially arrives

My week was not as busy as some have been lately, and I enjoyed an afternoon visit from my grandson and part of his family on Thursday! We had a very enjoyable time together, he soon will be stationed in Florida, so I am enjoying their company now, while I can. They brought hamburgers, ‘fries, and tea for our lunch and we totally had a wonderful day. My days for the next two weeks are full, it seems as if each day something new is claiming my attention and I have to tend to it. Sunday afternoon and evening, my neighbor invited my sister and I over for an afternoon of games with she and her mother who was visiting. The three of us started out playing dominoes and when my sister came, we switched over to Rummycube. Great company and a fun time for all of us!
In our area, Mother Nature seems to think that spring has arrived, even though there are still a few days until the first official day of spring. The Texas Mountain Laurel is sporting a beautiful purple coat, and the fragrance is out of this world. The Indian Blankets are blooming along the roadsides, the mesquite trees and huisache are finally wearing green, wild verbenas are beginning to show their lighter purple and the wild phlox are in full bright pink bloom. The pecan trees however, as well as the Sycamore in my brother’s yard both realize it is still winter and they are biding their time to bud out.
Friday is St. Patrick’s Day, a day the Irish and the “wanna be” Irish celebrates. “Erin go Bragh”, shillelagh, shamrocks, green ribbons, scones and Irish stew will be the order of the day. Over the years in reading different books and articles, I’ve come across the (slightly comic) Irish cop (usually in Chicago, sometimes in New York), telling someone to straighten, “Before I lay me shillelagh up alongside your head”.
When it comes to stories about St. Patrick, legend and truth are totally intertwined. The young man who was to later become St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was born in Wales around AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and due to lack of required scholarship, he almost didn’t get the job of Bishop of Ireland. Until the age of 16, he considered himself a pagan. At that time, after a raid on his village, he and other young men were sold into slavery in Ireland.
During his time of captivity, he learned the Celtic language and also moved closer to God. After six years of slavery, he was able to escape and went to Gaul. There, he studied in a Monastery under St. Germain, Bishop of Auxerre for twelve years. While he was in training, he became aware that he was being called to convert the pagans to Christianity. He was ordained as a deacon, then as a priest and finally as a bishop. Pope Celestine then sent him to Ireland to preach the gospel.
St. Patrick is best known the world over, for having driven the snakes from Ireland. Different tales tell of his standing upon a hill, using a wooden staff to drive the serpents into the sea, and banishing them forever from the shores of Ireland. One legend says that one old serpent resisted, but the Saint overcame it by cunning. He is said to have made a box and invited the reptile to enter. The snake insisted the box was too small, and the discussion became very heated. Finally, the snake entered the box to prove he was right, whereupon St. Patrick slammed the lid and cast the box into the sea. The legend of the shamrock is also connected with the banishment of snakes from Ireland by a tradition that snakes are never seen on trefoil and that it is a remedy against the stings of snakes and scorpions. While not the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, it was Patrick who encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan ritual.
The custom of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day came to America in 1737, when it was celebrated publicly in Boston for the first time. The Irish have their own language (Gaelic) and their own names for the foods they eat, and believe it or not, corned beef and cabbage is not a traditional Irish dish. So, what are traditional foods? One could start the day with a dish or porridge with a topping of cream or honey, followed by a full Irish breakfast fry, consisting of sausage, bacon, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, black pudding, white pudding, toast and brown soda bread. In accompaniment, there would also be a large pot of fresh tea, marmalade and honey.
Some more items that are considered traditional Irish recipes (those that are at least fifty years old), soda bread, oatcakes, gingerbread loaf, seed cake, basic scones, porter cake, Irish whisky cake, Irish omelet, oatmeal bacon pancakes, and Irish stew. This stew is traditionally made of lamb or mutton, potatoes, onions and parsley. Frequently, lamb or mutton neck bones, shanks and other trimmings were the basis for the stock. The root vegetables, turnips, parsnips or carrots, add further flavor and thickening power, as well as filling sustenance.
Yes, I know Irish Stew made with short ribs is not a meatless Lenten dish, but it fits the column! Serve it on Sunday or as your main dish for the day.
Irish Stew
4 to 5 pounds short ribs
7 small red potatoes
6 carrots
2 medium onions
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
3 cups water
3 beef bouillon cubes
½ cup cooking oil
Dissolve bouillon cubes in water and place over medium heat until just under boiling. Keep hot on low heat. Season meat with salt and pepper, dredge in flour and brown a few at a time in oil. Place in a large Dutch oven or roaster and set aside as you add more meat to the skillet. Fry onions in same pan with ½ cup of the flour left over from dredging the meat, until lightly browned. Add to ribs. Add water in which you have dissolved bouillon cubes, cover and cook about 1 to 1½ hours. While meat is cooking, peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Peel carrots and cut into ½-inch chunks (or use baby carrots and leave them whole). When meat has cooked the 1 to 1½ hours, add the vegetables and cook an additional hour, or until the vegetables are tender.
Now, here is a recipe which is truly Irish.
Oatmeal Raisin Scones
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chilled butter (do not substitute)
1½ cups oatmeal (either old-fashioned or quick cooking, but not instant)
½ cup raisins
1 cup buttermilk
Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 375ºF Mix together, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut chilled butter into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oatmeal and raisins. Add buttermilk and mix with fork until dough forms a ball. Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead 6 to 8 minutes. Pat dough into ½-inch thickness. Cut into 8 to 10 rounds or shape into large circle and cut into 8 to 10 wedges. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Scones are similar to the biscuits we eat. The “biscuits” that are eaten in England and Ireland are the equivalent of what we know as cookies!