Berger’s Burg: This St. Patrick’s Day partake of some authentic Irish cuisine

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St. Patrick’s Day, with its shamrocks, leprechauns and the wearin’ of the green, river−dances in March 17. It is one of the oldest holidays observed in the United States. It began centuries ago in Ireland and was brought to this country by Irish immigrants in 1737. The fete is usually celebrated with a parade. The elaborate festivities in Dublin have become known as the “Irish Mardi Gras.”

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. — Irish blessing

The celebration has become global. Thousands gather to watch St. Patrick’s Day parades in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Japan. But the largest and most renowned one is the spectacle in New York City. Anyone Irish or Irish in spirit is invited to march.

Flash!: Scientists in Taiwan have bred fluorescent green pigs to aid in stem−cell research. Perhaps we can borrow one for our St. Patrick’s Day parade.

May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. — Irish blessing

Flash again!: Contrary to popular belief, corned beef and cabbage is not, and never has been, a staple of the Irish diet. If it is corned beef the Irish wanted to eat on St. Patrick’s Day, they had to fly to Bayside and Ben’s Deli to find it. How could this be?

For hundreds of years, beef was beyond the means of most Irishmen. They ate “rashers” (slices of bacon), with their cabbage when they could get it and still do today. In America, beef was more affordable, so Irish Americans substituted boiled beef for bacon and a new Irish−American tradition was born.

May you have warm words on a cold evening,/A full moon on a dark night,/And the road downhill all the way to your door. — Irish blessing

Indeed, there is a good deal to be disillusioned about when it comes to Irish cuisine. Fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, two other dishes apt to be on the menu of your favorite Irish pub in America, are British convections, and the Reuben sandwich, another fixture, is of Jewish extraction, originating in either New York City or Nebraska, depending on which story you believe.

May love be in your heart and joy be yours to share,/And wherever your dreams lead you, may contentment meet you there. — Irish blessing

What, then, is traditional Irish cuisine? The Irish are still trying to sort that out. But in the past 20 years, coinciding with Ireland’s emergence as a vibrant economic and cultural force in Europe, there has been a movement to redefine Irish cuisine by emphasizing the country’s bountiful natural resources.

May those who love us, love us; and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn’t turn their hearts,/May he turn their ankles,/So we’ll know them by their limping. — Irish blessing

These include organic vegetables; handmade cheeses; grass−fed beef; salmon; trout; oysters, mussels and other shellfish; traditional Irish soda bread; and the quintessential Irish staple, the potato, all of which are being used in new and inventive ways.

May you never forget what is worth remembering, nor ever remember what is best forgotten. — Irish blessing

Not so in this country, where Irish cuisine remains glorified pub grub sprinkled with a bit of blarney in the form of “Celtic nachos,” “Leprechaun chicken tenders” and other silliness. What they lack in culinary authenticity many nominally Irish establishments make up for by cultivating another tradition of equal or greater importance to the Irish and their kin in America, something the Irish call “craic.”

This Gaelic term refers to the enjoyment derived in an eatery that provides good music, drink and company. When you find a place that adds fresh, wholesome, well−prepared and uncomplicated fare to the mix, you have found the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow.

He’s wild and he’s gentle, he’s good and he’s bad. He’s proud and he’s humble, he’s happy and sad. He’s in love with the ocean, the earth and the skies. He’s enamored with beauty wherever it lies. He’s victor and victim, a star and a clod. But mostly he’s Irish — in love with his God. — Anonymous

Gloria and I wish you all a joyful and green St. Patrick’s Day and may the luck of the Irish be with you forever. Erin Go Bragh — Ireland forever!

Contact Alex Berger at

Updated 5:49 pm, October 10, 2011
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