Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Growing Up Irish-American

Beannachtaí na féile Pádraig!  

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I am a 4th generation Irish-American who grew up in a small town with ties to the auld sod and roots in social justice. Bordentown, NJ, was founded by Quakers in 1682. For many years, the Bordentown Historical Society has resided in the former Friends Meeting House downtown. The Quakers were "first responders" to the tragedy that unfolded in Ireland in the mid-1840s: a devastating famine that killed a million and a half people and drove at least a million more to American and Australian shores.  Both sides of my family are here because of that famine: Doyles, Finnegans, and Lalors on my mother's side and Lynches, O'Connells, and McNichols on my father's side.

At St. Mary's, the Catholic grade school I attended, the priest and most of the nuns were Irish. Every year, I danced and sang in the St. Patrick's Day Show, dressed in starched organza (green, of course) and patent leather Mary Janes. I instinctively knew not to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day, lest I attract the sisters' ire, and random pinches from fellow students who knew better. It wasn't until years later that I learned the real reason for the orange ban: the Orangemen who yearly celebrated the triumph of William of Orange over King James II, the last English Catholic monarch to reign over Ireland.

People who have been following my blog over the past year will remember my images of Ireland. Last summer, I sifted through slides from a Ireland trip, scanned them...and remembered. A couple of months ago, I pulled together those blog entries, and produced an e-book which was enlarged and exhibited at my "day job."

Visit my Celtic American online gallery.

You can download the e-book from that gallery as well: Ireland Revisited. You are welcome to print a copy for your personal use or read it online. Just a reminder that I hold the copyright.

A few years ago, I gave my family members a family recipe and story binder with the idea that everyone would contribute to it. Several of us have been adding to it each year, making it a special treasure.

My contribution for 2011 is my Irish soda bread recipe. I always wondered why my family didn't really have a soda bread tradition. I did some research and learned that it became popular in Ireland after the potato famine. I also posted my recipe on my website which, as you will read, is an adaptation and not "true" soda bread.

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