As March 17 quickly approaches, the corned beef options around Petaluma are almost to the point where we might want to think about making Saint Patrick’s Day a weeklong celebration. From restaurants to food trucks to do-it-yourself options, corned beef lovers can rejoice over this simple yet tasty dish, and all the great left-overs that come from it.
Saint Patrick is the foremost patron saint of Ireland, and is credited with converting the pagans of Northern Ireland to Christianity. Commonly regarded as having rid Ireland of snakes, that is actually an allegory for his efforts against the druids, as fossil evidence proves that Ireland has never had snakes. During the last ice age, the Emerald Isle was too cold for reptiles and a lack of a land bridge to England and Europe meant that snakes never had a chance to migrate in.
Officially known as “Saint Patrick’s Day”, it is often shortened to St. “Paddy’s” Day, but never “Patty,” as that is the shortened version of the name Patricia, not Patrick. If “St. Patty’s Day” is your thing, I suggest heading over to Naples, which is Saint Patricia’s burial site, and where they honor her each August 25 with a celebration.
Although the most celebrated national festival around the world, you are unlikely to find corned beef and cabbage on the menu for Saint Patrick’s Day dinner in Ireland. However, do not be dissuaded or dismayed by those know-it-alls who point out that corned beef and cabbage is not an Irish tradition, because they are only partial correct. Corned beef and cabbage is a rich part of our Irish-American heritage.
Irish immigrants of the past two centuries lived, worked, and dined alongside New York City Jews, which is where they were first introduced to corned beef. Pork was the meat of choice in their native land; however, in the new world it was prohibitively expensive. Cured similar to their beloved Irish bacon, corned beef was a cheap alternative to pork. A cheaper alternative to potatoes, cabbage was cooked in the same pot as the meat, and so took on the desirable salty beef flavor.
If you do fancy a visit to Ireland to witness a traditional St. Paddy’s Day, an absolute must-visit restaurant is l’Ecrivain. Not your standard Irish fare, this Michelin starred restaurants exposes Irish flavors to a French treatment, and in exquisite fashion. Our lunch at l’Ecrivain ranks as one of the top two or three meals we have ever had, and all our future trips to Europe will fly through Dublin, specifically so we can revisit l’Ecrivain. lecrivain.com
Leading off the Corned Beef and Cabbage season is the Penngrove Social Fireman’s March 10 feed. Serving dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Penngrove Clubhouse, tickets are $15 for adults ($7.50 for kids under 12) and are available at JavAmore Café. We have been attending this feed for years and always enjoy the corned beef, as well as the $1 desserts offered by the local 4-H Club, as well as the raffle. For $1 per ticket, you get into the running for a $200, $100, and $50 Visa gift card.
The following weekend, the Elks Lodge #901 holds their St. Paddy’s Day feed on Saturday, March 17, starting at 6 p.m., with a live performance by Irish dancers. Tickets are $20 per person, and will sell out fast.