Thursday, March 17, 2005

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! And céad míle fáilte romhat! A hundred thousand welcomes to you!

Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

(courtesy of Irish Island)

Blogging friend Joe Sherlock gives us today of his Irish business lesson, "Blarney and The Luck of the Irish": it's worthy advice for anyone, and sometimes the best of us needs a reminder that "Luck is simply Preparation meeting Opportunity."

Today is one of my favorite holidays, possibly the one that I most love to celebrate. Thanksgiving and Christmas have generally lost their significance to me, and Easter (Resurrection Day) to me is more a day of joyful reverence, not fun like today. It also holds some sadness for me. My family's beloved dog passed away four years ago tonight. My old man always said that our Benji look-alike, some sort of terrier mix, was the best dog he ever had. It was hard to imagine a pet who could have been better. As my dad lay dying five years ago, bedridden from a sudden stroke, the dog stayed at my father's side for two whole days. He didn't get up to eat or drink, and he growled and refused to budge when anyone tried to move him. The home nurse told me he almost bit her, but he knew something was very wrong with his master.

He was 7 to 12 months old, the vet estimated, when we adopted him from the animal shelter in December 1986 (meaning he died at about 15, a good and long life for a medium-sized dog). My dad asked many times, "How did a nice dog like you wind up in the pound?" He was already housebroken and very well-groomed, so it was evident he had been taken care of, very well taken care of, by somebody. Maybe someone moved and had to give him up, or maybe someone died. In light of his reaction to my father's last two days, I lean toward the latter. He may have gone through the same thing, years before. He was such a good dog, and from his excellent grooming a very loved dog, that I can't imagine his previous owner(s) giving him up without great reluctance.

Well, on to happier things. This was my father's recipe for "proper" Irish coffee. If you're Irish and disagree, well, what can I say, he was Franco-German. I always liked his recipe, though.

First, of course, you need to make coffee. Regular coffee, sans all the fancy flavorings, and make it very strong. Then, superheat it in a saucepan until just before boiling. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is famous for cooking their steaks so hot that they stay hot until the last bite. Likewise, extremely hot coffee won't quickly cool down and lose its flavor. Hey, it's only once a year, so you can take a little more time.

Add a teaspoon or two of sugar, then depending on your mug size and personal taste, pour in one or two healthy shots of Irish whiskey. Don't use Bailey's or St. Brendan's, which I consider "the cheap way out." My father and I never believed real Irish coffee is made with anything less than Irish whiskey. Jameson's is my favorite. Bushmill's is also good, and the oldest licensed whisky distillery in the world, but to me it has a thinner taste.

Since we're not using Irish creme liqueurs, what will we use for cream? Well, nothing beats freshly whipped cream. You can use Cool Whip, or the spray cans, but those again are "the cheap way out." Don't mix it in the coffee! Layer it so it sits on the top, so that, as my dad said, "you drink the coffee through the cream."

Throw a maraschino cherry on top, and you have real Irish coffee!

Rath Dé ort, may the grace of God be with you.


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