Donning your Irish green or orange?

Published 9:12 am Thursday, March 18, 2010

Better late than never, I want to wish everyone a Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day.

As I’m writing this column, my co-workers are donning their green…a traditional color most wear for the holiday. However, this year I’ve learned that orange is also an acceptable color to wear on St. Patrick’s Day.

One look at the flag of Ireland will tell you why. The tricolor flag includes green and orange on either side and white in the middle. The common belief is that the green stands for Catholics and the orange stands for Protestant while white stands for the peace between the two.

If you know anything about the history of Ireland, then you’re aware that those two groups in the past (and still in the present) have had major conflicts. But that is what is great about St. Patrick’s Day; it doesn’t cater to that ugly past.

The holiday was named in honor of the Catholic Saint Patrick who is commonly known for “driving the snakes out of Ireland.” Though no snake survived in “post-glacial” Ireland, the saying is likely referring to St. Patrick’s work to convert pagans to Christianity. It is said Patrick used a three leaf clover to teach the Irish about the concept of the Trinity (three persons residing in one God).

In the United States, more than 36 million Americans (approximately 11 percent of the population) can trace their heritage back to Ireland.

My grandmother was one of those Americans who traced her ancestry back to Irish immigrants. And to say she was proud of that heritage would have been an understatement. She blessed each of her four daughters with Irish names which were disproportionate to their very Dutch surnames.

Grandma would always entertain us with Irish songs and sayings, and of course, there was always the food. St. Patrick’s Day was always a holiday celebrated in our home and, like many, corned beef and cabbage was always served up.

It’s a dish I still like to make each St. Patrick’s Day and for the past couple of years my Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald family has been there to enjoy it.

For a dish that has a lot of flavor, the dish is very simple.

You need the following ingredients: 3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet, 10 potatoes peeled and quartered (you can go smaller if you would like), six carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds and one large head of cabbage, sliced into small wedges.

Place corned beef in large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water. Add the spice packet that came with the corned beef. If you don’t like the seeds from the packet getting all over, just place it in a small piece of cheesecloth, tie the end to make a sack. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer approximately 50 minutes per pound or until tender.

Add carrots and cook them until they are almost tender. Add your potatoes next and cook them until they are almost tender. Lastly, add the cabbage and cook for 15 more minutes. Remove the meat and let it rest 15 minutes. Slice the meat across the grain.

Another key to this dish is letting it sit overnight in the fridge. This will give it a more robust flavor the next day when you heat it up.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.