If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I’m making corned beef and cabbage for my Irish husband for St. Patrick’s Day, I would be rich. Growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was the simplest holiday for my family. We wore green — and even that was optional — and briefly discussed the origins of the day. My mom always made corned beef and cabbage for dinner because it was a favorite of my dad’s. As a child, I assumed it was an authentically Irish meal.
It wasn’t until I started dating my Irish husband more than 10 years ago that I learned this is actually an urban legend. In fact, corned beef and cabbage is more of an American dish than an Irish one. It became a popular meal for Irish immigrants during the late 19th century because they could not find rashers (Irish bacon), and corned beef was the closest substitute. My husband had never eaten corned beef growing up — in the midlands of Ireland.
As someone who had always felt indifferent toward corned beef and cabbage, this news was not an earth-shattering revelation for me. I was slightly surprised and moved on with my life. But I was surprised by how often I was asked about making these foods for St. Patrick’s Day right after I met my husband. Yet, it’s not a tradition we have adopted.
So what do we do for St. Patrick’s instead? In the pre-kid days we would visit a pub and have a pint or two of Guinness, but our life was very different back then. These days, we don’t do anything super specific on the holiday. As a family, we have adopted and incorporated our own go-to meals and traditions. Some of these meals are native to Ireland, like Dublin coddle, a stew made up of potatoes, sausage, and rashers. I make it a few times throughout the fall and winter.
This year, if I remember, I will make sure my son and I wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. He has done some art projects at daycare to honor the holiday. Maybe I will put green food coloring in his drink.
This is a low-stakes holiday for me, and I intend to keep it that way. Which is another reason I will not be making corned beef and cabbage — the average recipe calls for a 2-3 hour cook time. I think we’ll keep doing our own thing.