Thursday is Saint Patrick’s Day. From green beer and pub crawls to parades and toe-tapping music, it is a day to celebrate all things Irish. Or at least all the things that we think of as Irish. More than thirty-four million Americans claim ties to the Emerald Isle. That’s a whole lot more than you’ll find in Ireland these days where the population is about four and a half million.
The potato famine drove hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants to the US in the mid 1800’s. With these great numbers, the Irish both changed the country and were changed by it. Poor farmers in Ireland, they came to cities and towns, destitute with little or no education. They took whatever work they could find and became a considerable force in American life.
Conditions in nineteenth century factories and mines were abhorrent. Many Irish immigrants supported and became leaders in the labor movement. Born in Cork, immigrant Mary Harris, later known as Mother Jones, committed more than fifty years of her life to unionizing workers.
Able organizers, the Irish soon conquered politics. In 1893, John Hopkins became the first of nine Irish American mayors to rule Chicago. Jimmy Walker served in the State Assembly and Senate before becoming mayor of New York in 1926. Walker was part of the infamous Tammany Hall. With strong support from Irish immigrants, the powerful society controlled much of the city’s politics from the mid-nineteenth century to the early 1930’s.
Irish politicians didn’t end with Tammany Hall. Countless judges, representatives, senators and governors have ancestral roots in Ireland. James Byrnes from South Carolina enjoyed a political career that spanned more than forty years and all three branches of government. New Englanders know well the powerful impact the Kennedy family has had on American politics. Today, our Vice President, Secretary of State and even the President have roots in Ireland.
Journalists Nellie Bly and Jimmy Breslin followed politics and more. Nellie’s 1887 exposé of the horrible conditions at the Blackwell’s Island insane asylum gained her acclaim and sparked wide-scale reform. A self-described street reporter, Breslin covered crime in scrappy, colloquial style. He became part of the Son of Sam story when David Berkowitz wrote him a taunting letter stating, “I appreciate your interest in those recent and horrendous .44 killings. I also want to tell you that I read your column daily and find it quite informative.”
Along with journalism, Ireland has a rich literary tradition. Irish Americans F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Flannery O’Connor, Frank McCourt and Alice McDermott continued that tradition on this side of the Atlantic. Not just letters, talented Irish Americans have enriched our world in many ways. Famed trombonist and bandleader Tommy Dorsey filled the air with swing and jazz. The innovative work of painter Georgia O’Keefe continues to intrigue and beguile us.
Finally, or finally for now, let’s not forget the Hollywood heartthrobs. Tyrone Power, Gregory Peck and George Clooney are just a few to make grown women sigh. Plus, we don’t want to overlook the gorgeous Grace Kelly, multitalented Judy Garland, or George’s aunt, Rosemary Clooney.
The list goes on. So this Saint Patrick’s Day, raise a glass of fine whisky or a pint of Guinness to the Irish and Irish Americans who have unraveled the truth, governed and enriched our lives. The catalog of Irish toasts is long but I offer this one: May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and bon appétit!
Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Look for spring-harvested parsnips in your local farmers market. A winter underground produces a sweeter and somewhat spicier parsnip. Enjoy!
About 3 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
Apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the parsnips on baking sheets in a single layer. Using a 2-to-1 ratio, drizzle with just enough olive oil and cider vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and toss again. Re-spread the vegetables in a single layer.
Roast uncovered at 375 degrees, stirring once or twice, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are browned and tender. Immediately sprinkle with the rosemary and toss to combine. Let sit for a minute or two, toss again and serve.
Can be made ahead. Cool to room temperature, cover and store in the refrigerator. Transfer to a baking dish and reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
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One Year Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Two Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Three Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Four Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Five Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Six Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Seven Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Do you have any special plans for a Saint Patrick’s Day? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016