The day before St. Patrick’s Day, I called my mother to ask for her corned beef and cabbage recipe. I had never made the traditional holiday dish before and decided this would be the year to try.
“I don’t really have a recipe,” my mother said. “I hate corned beef and cabbage. I always have.”
What? What is this blasphemy from red-headed. fair-skinned Alice Kelly Flynn? Growing up I distinctly remember my mother cooking corned beef and cabbage on many occasions. I even recall a few years ago visiting my parents’ house on Cape Cod on St. Patrick’s Day when my daughter Elizabeth held her nose the entire afternoon because the smell of boiled cabbage was making her sick. I think her word was “disgusting.”
But my mother said this week that she only made the dish for my father’s benefit. She grew up eating boiled dinners all the time and if she doesn’t have to eat another one for the rest of her life, she will be happy. I think her word was “gristly” when describing the cuts of boiled beef from her childhood.
One year my mother actually forgot it was St. Patrick’s Day and my father came home from a long day at work to find his wife in the kitchen making chicken stir fry for dinner. My father insisted they adhere to tradition and head out for corned beef and cabbage and my mother obliged.
With this new information about my mother, I decided to adjust my St. Patrick’s Day plans. After all, if my mother didn’t even like corned beef and cabbage and my daughters were already proactively complaining about the smell that would soon infiltrate our house, why should I bother?
What Alice does love are Irish scones, especially ones “dressed” as they say in real whipped cream and strawberries as served at the Keltic Kitchen in West Yarmouth, home of the traditional Irish breakfast.
I decided I would make scones instead. Seemed pretty easy. But the cupboards were pretty bare. My mother and father went to Sons of Erin, a social club near their house, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with music and food. Paul and I headed to Market Basket, also surrounded by music and food.
Here’s the recipe I followed after I Googled “Easy scone recipes.” I often add the word “easy” to my searches for recipes.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter. Mix the egg and milk in a small bowl, and stir into flour mixture until moistened.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll dough out into a 1/2 inch thick round. Cut into 8 wedges, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
While Alice does not love boiled corned beef, she does thoroughly enjoy a Reuben sandwich. Which is what brought us to The Indo, an Irish pub in downtown Beverly, on Sunday afternoon.
My good friend Debbie (who considers St. Patrick’s Day one of her favorite holidays) and I split a delicious Reuben, the tried-and-true sandwich composed of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressed grilled between slices of rye bread. It was a lot easier and more enjoyable to sit in a festive pub than to make my own boiled dinner. I think Alice would be proud of me.
Our St. Patrick’s Day weekend festivities were rounded out with a trip to the local Cabot Cinema to catch a special screening of The Quiet Man, the 1952 classic starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
Wayne plays the role of Sean Thornton, an Irish-born American who travels to Ireland to reclaim his family’s farm and his birthplace in Inisfree. He meets and falls in love with the fiery Mary Kate Danaher, played by O’Hara. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, and the movie won an Academy Award for director John Ford. But the romances sure were different back in the good old days.
At one point, Wayne’s character forces the woman he loves to return to their village by alternately dragging her, kicking her and shoving her over the course of five miles. In another scene, on their wedding night, he throws her onto their bed and breaks it. She slaps him pretty routinely and concedes to possessing a “fearful temper.” I think we were simultaneously laughing and gasping at the ridiculousness of it all. #relationshipgoals, this is not.
The Emerald Isle scenery, though, is certainly beautiful. The pub scenes are funny. And there is character name Michaeleen Flynn and another named Mary Kate (the same as my niece), so I consider those two additional positives.
The movie is an American classic that I have heard about my whole life so I am glad I could finally see it in my hometown theater with a friend I’m very lucky to have. Thank you, Mom, for talking me out of the boiled-dinner route.
Sometimes traditions are better off tweaked.
ONE NOTE: The “Irish Lass” sign at the top of the post hangs in our living room. I found it washed ashore on a beach on Prudence Island, Rhode Island, when I was 10 years old. I have walked many beaches in my life and never come across anything nearly as good.