On the farm in Northern Colorado and in Alaska.
Our Dad was very proud to be Irish. My Mom carried the Irish tradition in our home to almost extreme, probably to please Dad. She made sure that she washed and ironed the clothes that she thought we should wear on St. Patrick’s Day to school. Everything was green. Including a work shirt that Dad wore. He would wake us up and announce he was going to pinch us if we did not have green on, usually we got pinched because our jammies were not green. He would pinch us hard too. And that went on all day, if he even “thought” you did not have green on. In the evening, we would climb up on the couch beside him just to have the fun he was having on St. Patrick’s Day. We usually got pinched by his toes by the time it was to go to bed. He took pride in the fact he could pinch us with his big toes.
Mom cooked corned beef and cabbage – probably the only “beef” she ever bought, as we usually had our own beef in the freezer. We had lots of taters and carrots and cabbage to go with it. Our tummies were full to brimming. But then the dessert! Most of the time chocolate cake with her yummy frosting. Dad was all smiles and jabber through out the meal and until we went to sleep. No one ever enjoyed St. Patrick’s day like Dad did!
His enthusiasm did not stop with just his Irish family. He reminded all his neighbor-farmers too, by telling jokes and stories. Most of our neighbors were German but during WWII. They called themselves Russians and after the war switched back the German. Dad teasingly called all his friends “Roosians.” Isn’t it ironic that the world is turned back around and Germany is no longer our enemy and that Russian threatens us now? I would love to talk to my Dad about this. He would have a great answer!
None of the nationality backgrounds bothered us kids, because they all were our friends. I got to go to their houses and eat such wonderful dishes as “Kraut Burok” those most delicious cabbage pockets, made of cabbage and hamburger, wrapped in the soft bread dough and baked. My brother Jim’s wife, Sandy makes the very best “cabbage bellies” as they are called in her family. My kids called them “cabbage patches”. Other familIies had different names for this most delicious way to prepare cabbage and hamburger.
The reminder almost every morning as we went out the door to school, was forever engraved in our heads. “Remember you are Irish! Don’t do anything to make your Dad ashamed of you!” And if that was not enough some days when she thought we did something wrong, she would admonish us with “What would YOUR Dad think?” I really think that kept most of us out of trouble – I know it did me!!
Potatoes were served at almost every meal in. Fried with eggs for breakfast. Boiled for dinner at noon and smashed for supper. No “lunch” at our house! Lunch meant we went on a picnic with a basket lunch, taken to the hay or beet field to give Dad a break from the hot sun and grueling work of the day. Ground chicken or ground beef sandwiches on homemade bread, Mom’s potato salad, dill pickles, also home canned and potato chips. To quench Dads thirst and ours too, home made lemonade – Mom made the best! I was so proud to get to hold the big gallon jar of sweet, cold lemonade, when we piled in the car and took the goodies to our Dad. I still hear the tinkle of the ice cubes in that towel wrapped jar. The whole lunch was topped off with chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies.
In 1967, the kids and I moved to Alaska. For a short time I joined in on the St. Patrick’s parties that were so fun in Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski, (known as North Kenai, as the time.) We had so much fun going from bar to bar in a big school bus driven by Betty Coulter, celebrating with people we very seldom got to see except for this fun day. We ended up at the Hunger Hut all dressed in different shades of green, eating Elsie’s great food and for some, drinking green beer!! Yes it was fun and most of the time, it was very cold. We dressed in your finest warm coats, gloves and hats and bunny boots. We never minded to cold.
For a few years Bob and I hosted St. Patrick’s Day bon -fires here at our place. One year, Bob plowed the road and yard so our guest’s could park. Then he built a big-big roaring bon fire. He had piled snow up around the yard as it was so deep we had no place to put it. Banks were 6-7 foot tall packed snow. We carved out shelves in a snow bank to put all the wonderful dishes of food that were brought by our fun loving friends. Then the other shelf was for the beer to be kept cold. I hauled out our BBQ grill, put on the hot dogs and a big gallon pot of corned beef and cabbage on the side burner. The BBQer went out. I lit it again and it would not start! We knew we had a new tank of propane. We figured that it was just too cold to cook out doors. It was 17 below on the 17th of March!! I finished off everything in the house. I do believe that was our last St. Patrick’s Day party. We may just have to do that again!
Although this is an early Happy St. Patrick Day greeting, we should make plans to celebrate and have fun, “like the olden” days! Makes me smile.
The Grannie Annie series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski.Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.
Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net
The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.