I’ve recently been in the papers decrying the Penn State ‘tradition’ of State Patty’s Day, and have made no secret of my dislike of what has become a distorted and meaningless practice of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day…BUT, I’m not entirely immune to the charms of Ireland and the Irish, particularly since my husband is half Irish! If you’re more interested in a traditional meal celebrating the life of a fascinating man than drinking green beer, read on and enjoy!
First, a bit of history on the man himself…
Born about 390 CE near Dumbarton, Scotland, a boy named Maewyn Succat grew up with close ties to the Catholic Church. His father was a deacon, his grandfather, a priest. In the early years of Catholicism, before celibacy became the standard, priests could marry.
At age 16 Maewyn’s life changed dramatically when he was kidnapped from his home by Irish pirates and taken off to Ireland where he was sold more than once into slavery. A Druid priest, who was also a tribal chieftain, held him captive tending sheep for about six years. Though his religion had left little impression on young Maewyn, it became his solace during the lonely years as a shepherd in the Slemish Mountains. He prayed often, as much as 100 times a day and as frequently at night. When the vision of an angel urged him to escape, he ran away during the night, and after escaping another capture, finally traveled home by ship.
A deep religious calling led him to France where he was ordained into the priesthood and chose the name Patricius. While at the monastery he had many visions that urged him to return to Ireland to spread Christianity throughout the pagan land. In 430 CE, Pope Celestine I dispatched him, along with other missionaries, to Ireland where they spent many years traveling the country preaching to often hostile Druids. He saw the country was deeply rooted in idolatry and pagan tradition, and its people had not heard of Jesus until he preached to them.
The mission was often so dangerous he and his group were held in captivity twelve times and once were almost put to death. But each time they were released and sent on their way. He was said to have an engaging manner and often brought gifts to the chieftains, many of whom he converted to Christianity.
By the time he died at the age of 77, he had baptized thousands and established churches, schools, monasteries, dioceses, and church councils throughout the country. He died on March 17 possibly in the year 454 CE, though other historical records note various dates of his death as 460, 461, 462, and 463 CE.
Associated with many miracles, St. Patrick was attributed with driving poisonous snakes into the sea where they drowned. Though poisonous snakes are native to many countries, they do not exist in Ireland. Snakes were a well-recognized symbol to the Druid pagans. Perhaps poisonous snakes never existed in Ireland at all, but when Christianity replaced paganism, the snake symbolism also disappeared, and St. Patrick received the credit.
Now for the good stuff – FOOD!
As with all holidays, food is crucial. While traditional Irish cuisine tends to include meat, you can easily have a meat-free celebration on the 17th. Below is a vegetarian/vegan menu for an authentic Saint Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!
Begin your evening with Sean O’Reilly’s Cocktail, a delightful beverage dressed for the holiday in Irish green. Though kiwis are certainly not Irish, they provide the ideal base for a delicious thirst quencher. Spiked with a touch of lemon juice and ginger, the cocktail whets the appetite for the traditional meal ahead
Warm up with a flavorful Potato, Onion, and Leek Soup that boasts a creamy base of rich soymilk. The heart of the meal is a delectable vegan version of traditional Irish Stew with a robust combination of seitan, barley, carrots, and potatoes.
Accompanying the entrée is a thick ragout of Peas Porridge, a historical dish that centers on simply seasoned green split peas. And, no Irish celebration would be complete without Irish Soda Bread, especially one made more wholesome with whole-wheat pastry flour to give it rugged body.
Colcannon, an Irish favorite, combines feather-light and creamy mashed potatoes with steamed cabbage, two vegetables in abundance in Ireland.
Polish everything off with Apple Orange Bread Pudding, a dessert that features citrus zest and spices to bring out the best flavors and toothy textures of apples, walnuts, and pine nuts. Dress the pudding with a choice of Irish Whiskey Sauce or a Cinnamon Orange Sauce.
Click this link to see the recipes!!