The dilution of the actual and direct Old World heritage in the American population continues at a rapid rate more than 200 years after our forefathers declared independence from the tyranny and oversight of Great Britain.
For most of us, on the world stage, we truly are labeled Americans and for many others still joining our nation as citizens the beckoning of the “lamp beside the golden door” means their children will also enjoy that designation.
But we as individuals have never quite gotten over the fact that originally our ancestors were all from someplace else. Millions of dollars are spent on genealogy and investigations into the distant past to a point in time when some guy had his way with some girl and, through a series of continuing human dalliances, here we are.
Still the question for many Americans is who we are. We search to find from what royal bloodline we are descended, when the more likely case is what line of beggars and thieves (or at least common folk just trying to make their way through this life as best they could) do we resemble in thought and façade?
While curiosity is a fine human trait, I’ve always wondered about all the fuss. Seems to me that the answer to our roots is quite obvious.
We are all, back in the woodshed somewhere, Irish. You don’t have to spend a lot of money researching heritage when all you have to do is step out of doors on March 17 in New Orleans. A sea of green, and in many cases a complete abandonment of good sense, proves the point. Tell me I’m wrong.
New Orleans’ Irish gatherings are a lot like the same gatherings all over America, only more so. Every festival we have around here can best be described as “… only more so.” St. Paddy’s Day is not so different. Just completely off the charts.
Take the parades. Free-form affairs where the main parts of the parade, the floats, follow a specific route. But if you are in the Irish Channel and Uptown on Saturday, March 17, you will see guys who are members of the club walking in tails. You will see them everywhere. Sometimes even along the parade route.
The floats will be laden with cabbages, carrots, potatoes, beads and panties. The recipe for a great parade, and the ingredients for a fine Irish stew, sans the beef. The veggie portions of the Club’s largesse are rather bulky and hard. For this reason, windows along the parade route look like they have been prepped for a months-away hurricane season. Plywood boards, cut to size years ago, are erected across openings. The veggies bounce off the plywood when tossed from the floats and the shielded windows live to be seen another day. At least that’s the plan.
Green beer, and let me be real clear here, is strictly for amateurs. Luckily those folks quaffing the tinted suds don’t last too long after sunset, so the green beer does not flow into the night. The best that can be said for the icky green stuff is that, usually, it’s cheap.
The green is a food dye. It will dye whatever it touches. That’s what it is designed to do. It will dye your clothes. It will dye your fingers. It will dye the tablecloth. And it will dye your teeth. Only temporarily, of course, but green teeth I can do without, even for a short time.
For this day, and for many days, a grand choice of beverages is Irish whiskey. While Scotland has more than 90 distilleries, Ireland has only four, and these are located in one of three places on the island. Due to difficult economic conditions and also due to corporate takeovers and mergers, only three distilleries are operating today. Another distillery, Kilbeggan, began operations in 2007, but the products are not quite ready for market or are just trickling in.
The Old Bushmills Distillery Company in the north makes Bushmills Single Malts, Black Bush and Old Bushmills. New Midleton Distillery in the South makes Jameson’s, Powers, Paddy and Midleton. Then there’s Cooley Distillery on the east coast, makers of Michael Collins and Connemara.
Several of the Irish whiskeys mentioned are not exported.
One of the factors separating an Irish Whiskey from their Scottish or American counterparts is the law that demands any whiskey labeled "Irish Whiskey" be made in Ireland. Fair enough. Alcohol by volume must be less than 52 percent, although most are much lower, often around 40 percent. And the whiskey has to spend a minimum of three years in wooden barrels.
The legal requirement that whiskey from Ireland be triple distilled, not double as in Scotland, is the main point of differentiation as to why Irish whiskey is a smooth, quite approachable – and mixable – spirit.
So this St. Pat’s Day, get out and mingle with your fellow countrymen. Party like it really means something in the big picture. Dance in the streets with great abandon. Sing songs you don’t really know out loud. Catch a cabbage with your bare hands. Kiss a girl, or if you are a girl, let the guy kiss you.
And, above all, know that a green beer is never an Irish beer, like Guinness or Harp or Smithwick’s (pronounce it correctly, smid-icks). Those beers most certainly will not be tinted green.
Want something a bit different? Try this cocktail, created by Samantha Tepel, bar manager at the new bar and restaurant, Dijon, in the 1300 block of Annunciation, the old Fire! Restaurant.
1 1/2 oz Jameson's Irish Whiskey
1/4 oz green creme de menthe
4 oz half & half
1/2 oz mint-infused simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, add ice and shake.
Pour into a rocks glass over ice.
Garnish with whipped cream and fresh mint sprig.