Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Food & Folklore:
Corned Beef and Cabbage

To help celebrate the Irish, we will be serving corned beef and cabbage all day on Saturday through St. Patrick's Day. We serve a generous 8 oz. portion of corned beef and fresh vegetables (not canned or frozen); steamed cabbage, baby carrots and boiled whole new potatoes.

Come down and watch the downtown LaSalle St. Patrick's Day Parade, then celebrate with us. What was once an annual tradition, the LaSalle St. Patty's Day Parade was missed for many years. Four years ago, the parade was resurrected, and a new annual tradition was begun. On Saturday, March 15th at 1 pm, LaSalle will once again host its "Annual" St. Patty's Day Parade. Don't miss the fun, and lets hope with weather cooperates.

The story of the connection between corned beef and cabbage, the Irish and St Patrick's Day is convoluted and somewhat unclear. It appears that this connection was American in origin rather than Irish. Organized St. Patrick's Day parades may have begun sometime around 1845 in the Northeast United States, but there is no mention of corned beef connected to these early celebrations. 

There are several theories, or perhaps more correctly, legends about the emergence of corned beef being associated with the Irish. One which seems to have a ring of authenticity about it, asserts that this began occurring after the U.S. Civil War. As we know many thousands of Irish, many newly immigrated to America, fought on both sides. Corned beef, which by its very making is designed to resist spoilage, was one of the staples of the military diet. The story goes on to suggest that many of the poor Irish were thus introduced to this delicacy (for them) and carried this taste back to their homes. Corned beef being relatively cheap, ultimately became a staple on the tables of the Irish. Whatever the origin, corned beef and cabbage is now and forever associated with the Irish and St. Patrick's Day.

The Irish shamrock also has a long history.  An Ireland shamrock is a three-leafed clover that grows in the summer and is native to Ireland. It's actually a variety of a weed. Shamrocks grow from bulbs and may bloom with white flowers around St. Patrick's Day. If you own a shamrock plant, it's important to cut it back and keep it in a cool, dark place a couple of times a year so that it can rest. Shamrocks are dormant in Ireland during the winter, and they won't grow throughout the year when they're kept as houseplants.

The shamrock has been symbolic of different things through the ages and has had many different meanings attached to it. On St. Patrick's Day, many people will be seen wearing a shamrock charm to show support for Ireland and celebrate Irish pride, even if they are not Irish. The four-leaf clover is often confused with the shamrock though. While the four-leaf clover is a symbol of good luck, the three-leafed shamrock is mainly an Irish Christian symbol of the Holy Trinity and has a different significance. During the fifth century, St. Patrick used the Irish shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity. One leaf represented the Father, one the Son and one the Holy Ghost. By drawing on the Irish love for the shamrock, St. Patrick was able to convert many pagan Celts into Christians.

I am sure you've heard the saying that "everything happens in threes."  Well in Ireland, they do consider three to be their lucky number. Crone, Mother and Virgin. Love, Valour and Wit. Faith, Hope and Charity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Numbers played an important role in Celtic symbolism. Three was the most sacred and magical number. Everything good (or lucky) in Ireland comes in threes, hence the shamrock's three leaves and importance to the Irish.

Another bit of Irish luck would be running into a leprechaun. A leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore, usually taking the form of an old man in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. The Leprechauns spend all their time busily making shoes, and storing away their coins in a hidden pot of gold. Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker's hammer. If caught, he can be forced to reveal the whereabouts of his treasure, or if he is captured by a human, the Leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release. (There's the number three again.) The captor must keep their eyes on him every second, because if the captor's eyes leave the leprechaun, he vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.

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