“May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door”
I’ve done a lot of talking about my Southern heritage, and a lot of cooking to show it off. But long before my people were living in the southern United States, their people were living in Ireland, Scotland, England, and Germany…Once they finally hopped on boats to come to the states, they married other Irishman, Englishman, and some Native Americans. What eventually trickled down to become the greater part of my heritage was Irish, Native American, and German. I know. I’m a regular World Atlas of genetic material. The upside is that I get to celebrate A LOT. Just about any week of the year, one or more of the groups in my gene pool is celebrating something.
When I am in the kitchen, the influence that comes out most often is the Native American, as it was also the most influential to the Latin American and Southwestern cultures from which Texas grew. My cooking style, which I call Texas Fusion, seeks to incorporate those flavors into dishes from other cultures and regions.
But the part of my heritage that was the most evident in my family life and my formative years was the Irish part. Since we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day this week, it’s a perfect time to honor that heritage. My people came from Ireland, from the area around County Limerick, and County Cork. Our family name, and my maiden name, is Gough, a variation from the much earlier McKeough. It rhymes with cough.
One of the traits that has come to typify, if not stereotype the Irish people is their love of drink, song, and some very colorful language. Have I mentioned how a good thick Irish brogue (accent) makes me go weak in the knees?
If you are watching a movie set in Ireland, there will almost inevitably be a scene set in a bar filled with rosy-cheeked locals drinking pints of Guinness and singing Irish folk songs. A more cheerful and gregarious bunch of Catholics there never was. And nobody can turn a phrase better than an Irishman.
My Papa was no exception. Since I was a little girl, I remember him always, always singing–except when he was humming– “GalwayBay”, and “Danny Boy”. And since he was also a proper Catholic—like any good Irishman should be—he also sung “The Lord’s Prayer”, and “Ave Maria”. He had the voice of an angel, and I can still hear him singing like it was yesterday.
Singing in an Irish Pub would not be complete without liberal application of alcohol, and Ireland is famous for producing its share. Guinness Stout, and Irish Whiskey, most notably.
Guinness is the famously dark ale that has been produced in Dublin since 1759, and is the most popular drink in Ireland.
Irish Whiskey is a hard liquor made of one or more types of grains—barley being most common. It is almost always distilled three times and aged for at least three years, although frequently much longer. Only products distilled in Ireland can legally be called Irish Whiskey, in much the same way that only sparkling wines bottled in France can legitimately be called Champagne. Also, the whiskey produced in most other countries—the United States being an exception—are spelled whisky. Scotch Whisky and Canadian Whisky, for example.
Given their proclivity for drinking and cheerful song, no culture has produced better toasts or folk expressions than the Irish:
“Bricks and mortar make a house but the laughter of children makes a home”
“Many a time a man’s mouth broke his nose”
“May the roof above us never fall in, and us friends beneath it never fall out”
And due to the large incidence of Catholicism in Ireland, plenty of lovely blessings too…….
“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand.”
“May you have:
A world of wishes at your command.
God and his angels close to hand.
Friends and family their love impart,
and Irish blessings in your heart!”
“Laughter is brightest where food is best”