March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, an official Roman Catholic feast day honoring St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle in the fifth century. It’s celebrated by the Irish diaspora in America with parades, the wearing of green clothing, meals of corned beef and cabbage, and a night of drinking.
Some 33 million people — that’s 10 percent of the U.S. population — claim Irish ancestry, according to a 2013 Census Bureau survey. Another 3 million are Scots-Irish descendants. Such “Ulster Scots” are Protestants who left northern Ireland.
Here are five ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day:
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
You’ll never go back to oatmeal after a polishing off a full Irish breakfast of bacon, sausages, fried eggs, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, and coffee or black tea. For serious authenticity, add fried black pudding (pork blood sausage) or white pudding (sausage of pork, fat and oatmeal). Serve soda bread, which is easy to make, with Dubliner cheese and generous helpings of butter and jam.
Buy Kerrygold butter, Dubliner cheese and hard-to-find bangers (sausage) at Trader Joe’s. For black or white pudding and other specialty items, Aine Morris of Bellingham recommends the website Foodireland.com, or call 877-474-7436.
You can also find Irish foods at The British Pantry restaurant and store in Redmond, which caters to expats and Anglophiles. It’s at 8125 161st Ave. NE. For details, go to thebritishpantryltd.com or call 425-883-7511.
For breakfast, Keri Whyte of Sudden Valley makes green milk and pancakes. She says her “secret family recipe” is a few drops of green food coloring. “My kids are convinced they taste better with color,” Whyte said.
• Before your family or guests come to the table, make it look as though a leprechaun ran through the kitchen. Pour some green acrylic paint on a plate. Form a “C” shape with your right hand, and coat the pinky side of your hand with paint, then press it to the table or countertop — creating a tiny “footprint.” Use your index finger to add “toes.” Use your left hand to make the other foot, and so on.
• Let children amuse themselves with a craft while you’re cooking. Cut shamrock shapes from green construction paper (findtemplates
online) and have them write a word or phrase, such as “Éirinn go Brách!” (Ireland forever!) “fáilte” (welcome) or “Céad míle fáilte,” which translates from the Gaelic as “a hundred thousand welcomes.” Use a safety pin to fasten the shamrock to clothing.
Quench your thirst
Boomer’s Drive-In offers Irish Creme as its milkshake flavor of the month for March (nonalcoholic, $3.09). The 1950s-style restaurant is at 310 N. Samish Way. Go to boomersdrivein.com or call 360-647-2666.
Bored of corned beef and cabbage? Try Donegal Stew, a satisfying dish of lamb or lamb bones, and a combination of potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, leeks and barley that’s traditionally made in a number of ways. Season with pepper, parsley, rosemary and/or thyme. To save time, brown the meat or roast the bones first, then finish in a crock pot. Serve with hunks of buttered soda bread. Make your own or try any of various recipes online.
Soda bread is easy to make, with little or no kneading and rising required. Countless recipes are found online. One of my family’s favorites is Brown Butter Soda Bread, adapted from epicurious.com. I omit the black pepper topping and carve a Star of David instead of a cross on top, my tribute to the Loyal League of the Yiddish Sons of Erin, an organization of Jewish Dubliners.