It Matters Not if you are Irish or Italian
Chef's Travel Notes
It’s official; hell has frozen over, and St. Patrick’s Day has been cancelled in Ireland! They are under a Level 5 alert, shutting down the entire country as the latest British virus strain is spreading. In Italy, most of the regions are Code Red, restricting all travel away from home, leaving Italians scrambling to make virtual plans to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, their national Father’s Day.
We know March 17 honors Patrick, born Maewyn Succat, of Roman parents (!!!) in Britain. He came to Ireland as a missionary, converted the country to Catholicism and changed it forever. He is considered the Father of Ireland, personifying love, devotion, and persistence. His influence is universal, making him the symbol of Irish patriotism and unity around the world.
March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph is also celebrated worldwide, but considered mainly an Italian holiday. He is foster father of Jesus and so is seen as protector and provider of the family. St. Joseph’s feasts are predominantly celebrated in southern Italy and Sicily. Home altars, known as St. Joseph’s Tables are built and laden with course after course of specialty breads and food designed to feed the less fortunate in the town. Today, this tradition is maintained by a festive meal at home and gifts of food to a local soup kitchen to feed the less fortunate.
Indeed, these two Saints have many things in common as do the Irish and Italians. Both nationalities share a history of leaving their homelands to forge new lives abroad. The Irish arrived in America during the great potato famine in the 1840s, to face great anti-Catholic bigotry and discrimination. Italians began to arrive in large numbers in the 1880s. They found established Irish immigrant communities who had faced and were still facing acute struggles to find employment. So, two of the poorest immigrant groups battled it out for jobs and a means of survival, clashing on the streets and in politics. Fortunately, as both group’s socio-economic situations improved, so did their relationships. *Take a look at the 2015 film Brooklyn, adapted from the Colm Toibin book about an Irish girl’s immigration to NY where she falls in love with an Italian boy and must decide between her new and old worlds. Link
Italians and Irish have much in common:
Religion – Their Catholic faith was the great unifier. Studies show that, after WWII there were a great increase in Catholic Irish Italian weddings.
Immigration – Both nationalities share a history of struggle after leaving behind their homelands to forge new lives.
Family – Both have deep attachments and loyalty to the family unit.
Other commonalities can be found in their love of celebrating and maintaining their homeland’s traditions, imbibing in their favorite beverages, soccer madness, and a flair for mobster movies, etc. 😊
Our menu this week is a playful rendition of Irish and Italian recipes, All Things Green Salad pays homage to Ireland’s proud national color with an assortment of fresh Spring produce.
Paglia e Fieno, Straw (yellow) & Hay (green), is fresh, egg-based pasta with the addition of spinach for color, tossed with a simple butter, parmesan pepper sauce to be enjoyed as a “piatto unico” together with…
Irish Beef Stew, a deeply satisfying coming together of dark Guinness stout and rich Italian red wine together with the universal ingredients, beef, onions, carrots, and potatoes.
Soda Bread is perhaps the most famous food of the Emerald Isle. It is a simple classic most certainly made popular due to Ireland’s past financial strife and lack of access to ingredients. Soft wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and sour milk (buttermilk) were quickly kneaded together and baked in cast iron skillets on griddles or over open hearths. *Interesting to note that the first peoples to use soda to leaven their bread were the American Indians, not the Irish.
Frittelle di Riso are the rice fritters that Tuscans wait for the entire year. Every region of Italy seems to have their sweet traditional specialty – zeppole, sfinci, struffoli and pignolatta to name a few. Our fritters start with short grain rice cooked in milk and combined with eggs, flour, and raisins before it is dropped by the spoonful into hot oil. The streets of Florence are full of vendors selling this must awaited “dolce”.
St. Patrick’s Day is not widely celebrated in Italy, but parties and festivities can be found in the major cities where there is a large student population. (Florence has at least two dozen pubs!) Of course, these social events are off the table this year, but there will be a “Global Greening” campaign in Italy this week with a total of 42 sites and monuments illuminated in green lights.
If we can learn anything from the relationship between Irish and Italian Americans, it is that long simmering conflicts can change, yielding to friendship and even love when people try to understand each other and interact as equals.
Tutto il mondo e paese / The whole world is a village!