Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bangers & Mash

I spent St. Patrick’s Day as I usually do.  I took the day off, avoided wearing green (I feel I don’t have to wear green to say I’m Irish) and I dropped by WNHU’s radio station where my parents played Irish music and took requests from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. 

I know I'm biased but my parents do a great job with their biweekly program, Echoes of Erin.  Amid the Irish traditional céilidh and showband music they give history, recipes and even an Irish language lesson courtesy of my mother’s Irish Language schooling.   I have this love/hate thing with St. Patrick’s Day.  While I am fiercely proud of my Irishness, I hate that being Irish gets reduced to the caricature of leprechauns, shades of greens that don’t occur in nature and binge drinking.  I've very proud that my parents, who are tea-totalers by the way, show there's more to being Irish than green beer and shamrocks.
And then there is the whole corned beef and cabbage thing.  Just for the record, corned beef and cabbage ain’t what they eat in Ireland.  At least not till Americans started coming to Ireland and bringing it with them.  The big Sunday or holiday dinner is usually boiled “bacon and cabbage” – bacon being ham or back bacon. What we think of as bacon, the Irish call rashers, which are halfway between Canadian bacon and ours.
But the other day, I discovered that the local Whole Foods carried Irish style bangers!  $4.99 a pound!!  Made fresh in Massachusetts!!!! I picked up some and, after giving half to my parents, made a meal of bangers & mash for myself. 
The bangers cook like any sausage.  I don’t do milk so I used chicken stock in its place in the mashed potatoes with a little Kerrygold Irish butter (again, thank you, Whole Foods) and served it with baked beans.  You can have bangers & mash with onion gravy which is a little nicer, but baked beans are what my grandmothers Josie Kennedy and Nora Boles fed me and that’s what I had.
Irish bangers are usually smaller and greasier and not as nice as the Whole Foods ones, but let me tell you after a few bites I was transported to my grannies’ kitchens in Clonmel town and the countryside of Ardfinnan, recalling with tears in my eyes the smells and the sounds of their homes, like Proust and his madelines. 

Bliss.  Greasy, starchy bliss.

"What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" - Lin Yutang