We're only moderately Irish, so maybe that's why St. Patrick's Day has only ever held moderate appeal to us. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that getting falling-down-drunk—a uniquely American approach to the holiday—didn't seem like the best way to show pride in our Irish heritage. Here are some of our favorite alternatives.
Start the day with steel-cut Irish oatmeal. Before you put the oatmeal on, set some raisins to soak in some whiskey. Then throw in a diced apple, cinnamon, and walnuts, and when the oatmeal's almost done, the raisins. Top it off with some cream. That'll get you going.
Go smash a glass ceiling. Ireland got its first female president in 1990, when Mary Robinson was inaugurated. She was one of only three female heads of state in the world at the time, and was the first head of state to visit Somalia during its famine in 1992 and the first to visit Rwanda after the genocide there. In November 1997, Mary McAleese became Ireland's second female president.
Read with your kids — or let them read to you.
• Read to you: The Giggler Treatment, by Dublin writer Roddy Doyle. The Gigglers give "the Giggler Treatment," (that is, they cause people to step in dog poo) to adults who are unfair to children. Not surprising that my daughter, then in second grade, giggled through the whole thing. For ages 7 to 11.
• Read to them: Flight of the Doves, by Galway author Walter Macken. This tells the story of Finn Dove and his little sister Derval, who decide to run away from their abusive stepfather in Liverpool and make their way to their grandmother across the sea in County Galway. As one fan writes of Finn, "On his journey, we find ourselves realizing along with him that sometimes what is 'right' and what is 'legal' don't always coincide." For ages 8 to 12.
Appreciate some Irish dancing, with a twist. Riverdance veterans Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding invented "hand dancing," a nod to the fact that Irish dancers learn their choreography with their hands, usually by beating on their laps or chests. If you haven't seen their hand dance, watch it now!
Visit the White House. The White House was designed by an Irish architect, James Hoban, and was modeled after Ireland's home of the Dukes of Leinster, which now houses Ireland's House of Representatives.
Pop in an "Irish" movie. Plenty to choose from.
• Once Irish street busker falls for a Czech musician and single mom while trying to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend.
• Hear My Song A comedy about a quest to get Irish tenor and British tax evader Josef Locke to return to Liverpool and give a concert
• Waking Ned Devine A comedy about a small town and a lottery windfall
• The Commitments Unemployed Dubliners form a soul band and a spectacular soundtrack
• The Secret of Roan Inish A John Sayles film based on Irish folkore about seals that shed their skins to become human.
• The Quiet Man John Wayne stars as an American boxer who returns to his Irish ancestral home and falls in love with Maureen O'Hara, whose brother can't stand Wayne.
Make Irish soda bread. I know we're going to get grief for this one, because traditional Irish soda bread is made with buttermilk. This Irish soda bread recipe, from Sheila Lukins, uses yogurt. It's still the best one I've ever had. Sorry about that.
What you'll need:
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup golden raisins
1 ¼ cups nonfat plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon melted butter
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, raisins and caraway seeds in a bowl. (I stir everything together with a whisk instead of using a sifter. It's faster.)
Mix together the yogurt, egg, and butter, and then add it to the dry ingredients. Stir until everything is just mixed.
Form the dough into a circular shape about six inches across, and put it on an ungreased baking sheet. Use a knife to cut a cross shape in the top (to ward off evil spirits, of course).
Bake about 50 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Get someone else to make chocolate Guinness cake. If you've never had chocolate Guinness cake, you won't believe how tasty and moist it is. I never have time to make it, but one of the parents at my daughter's nursery school makes it for the bake sale every year. We always, always make sure to grab some. —KW and CG
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image courtesy of flickr user jenny_monster