|A day for the Irish...and the red, white |
As a kid, St. Patrick's Day was a big deal in a kind of odd sense.
Growing up in a very typical Jewish-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, the Irish were exotic beings.
They had different customs, habits and accents and, by the invisible delineation known as a neighborhood, were even physically removed from our daily lives.
This made them kind of mysterious and totally cool.
|The pipers are always a|
Who didn't want to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day? I know I did.
Until my oldest son established his own annual tradition of skipping school and attending with his friends, my family never actually went to the parade. We were, as a group, kind of crowd-phobic and besides, the best seat in the house was on the floor in front of the black and white TV in the living room with Grandpa.
From that spot, I would watch the tall and charismatic pipers with their fabulous hats and incredible posture. I'd marvel at the endless waves of police and firemen marching proudly, many sporting green carnations in their lapels and tam 'o' shanters on their heads in place of their usual headgear.
|Everyone has this on March 17th!|
Soon after the parade was over, still humming the favorite Irish tunes most every one knows, we'd convene at the kitchen table to eat dinner together....something traditionally Hungarian.
|Pardon my drool...|
|I go through several of these a year.|
Even as a kid, the contrast wasn't lost on me. And I loved it. We'd listen to the pipers on TV, eat Hungary afterward and enjoy Italy at the meal's end. It was a world tour in the comfort of the brownstone I called home.
I think about it still -- all our differences thrown together, not into a melting pot but into a big salad bowl -- every ingredient maintaining it's identity but getting along. In the perfect world of my childhood recollections, edges softened by time and a rapidly shrinking cerebral cortex, the tomatoes had no bone to pick with the green pepper and the onions were more than happy cuddling up to the cucumbers. New York City was, and remains to be, a glorious tossed salad.
We like each other. We are used to each other. Sometimes we piss each other off mightily but, when it counts, the tomatoes and the green peppers can still make it work.
As we migrated from that Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park, our horizons widened on their own. Suddenly our neighbors had different accents and traditions. And, on open-window days, the smells wafting from their kitchen were new and enticing.
|I didn't know anyone who actually ate these.|
And, for St. Patty's Day, a friend gave me her family recipe for soda bread.
Once a year,the beer ran green in the local pubs, green bagels filled the bins in the front windows of the bagel stores and the Green Oak, the bar down the street, stayed open till 6 am the following morning.
I seem to have come full circle. Today, I will be watching the parade on TV, seasoning our dinner with a huge dose (lethal to those who have not built up a tolerance over the years) of paprika and hoping someone drops off a canoli or two for dessert.
May the luck of the Irish not only be with you today but with us all, in every neighborhood (even in the trendy, hipster neighborhoods where the new locals want to make artisanal cheese while wearing skinny jeans), every remaining ethnic stronghold in every city in America, to your front door and far, far beyond.
Have a great St. Patty's Day, everyone!