Friday, March 17, 2006

Feast of St. Patrick & Concepcion's Irish Soda Bread

March 17 is the day appointed by the Catholic Church to celebrate the feast of St. Patrick, bishop and Apostle to Ireland. It is also the day that millions of non-Catholics celebrate a thing called

St. Paddy's Day.

Normally these would be the same people that would deny an Irishman a job just because of his ethnicity, but on this day they will get stupid-drunk on cheap beer tainted with green dye and pretend they are Irish.Naturally, we Catholics - practicing or not - are not so shallow. We take this time to reflect on this great Saint and the wonderful nation and people he converted to the Faith. We consider the shamrock, which St. Patrick used so effectively to explain the Holy Trinity....

And beer, and Soda bread, and Beer, and family traditions, And Beer, and Shepherds Pie--I mean Guinness Pie, and BEER,

and the great people of Ireland who have been oppressed by an occupying force for centuries, yet thanks to St. Patrick, they still maintain that fighting Irish spirit! Kiss My Green--tip your hat to the Irish, drink your Guinness and eat your corned beef (if dispensed of Friday abstinence), please say a prayer to St. Patrick, patron of Ireland newslnews/2002870577_cornedbeef17m.html .

Concepcion's Irish Soda Bread

4 c sifted flour
1 1/2 tsps baking soda--a good brand witaluminumminim please!!!
1 tsp Celtic sea salt (throw out the Mortons are worse)
3/4 c sugar
1 c White raisintablespoonlspns melted butter + enough to butter the pan with also--and a smidge more butter when no one is looking eh--Oy Vey
2 eggs, beaten-well beaten, lots of air needed-and use "free-range" eggs only-- ever
2 cups buttermIlk--i buy the dried buttermilk powder and keep it in the IceBox --and add it to whole milk--actually if you won't tell Half and Half :)
Mix dry ingredients.
Mix butter, eggs and buttermilk.
Stir into dry ingredients.
Use a 2 qt pan--glass
Bake at 350 degrees for 1.25 hours.

This should be served with Concepcion's Unique version of Irish Coffee:
8 Tbs of Cafe DeMound coffee--freshly ground at the moment of brewing with only a burr grinder--Concepcion will not allow the beans to be bruised--only burr ground is allowed in the house under her care.
8 cups of Pure Spring Water--do not even go to our tap to do anything other than wash your teeth or hands :)
Brew the coffee on the 8th setting toward Strong

Using Organic heavy Cream--make fresh whipped cream using a Braun submersible beater and add a smidge of very good Vanilla---only Organic,pure Vanilla will do and a larger smidge of Vanilla sugar (you use a nice air-tight container and fill it with good Sugar and submerge a split Vanilla bean in the middle of the container and keep tightly closed)

Chill a Magnum bottle of fine Irish Cream--if you have to be a true yuppie,follower of the latest marketing blitz, you can have your new Bailey's-but if you want the real then please,please,please, get: Bushmill's Irish Cream. Bushmill is the worlds oldest licensed distillery--with a history of almost 400 years. Ah---a sense of history--- stop sipping things made this year or last--find something wonderful with a bit of age to it or at least from a historical house and lineage.

Now for the important part--The Mixing--listen very carefully--pour the coffee into a porcelain mug and add a dollop of cream--and give it to a child, any child under 9--and take the Bushmill Irish Cream-- start with a two fingers serving in a nice cut crystal Waterford Old Fashion glass-immediately put the Magnum back on ice to keep it chilled while you sit before the fire and sip with good Irish music playing. I recommend the Dubliners for fun---or if you are an old soul and are due a woeful cry--put on the 3 Irish Tenors and hit repeat on "Danny Boy"--turn it up, a room away and let it flow over you wave after wave:

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying'
Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.
And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me

Till next time I leave you to a good fire, good friends, a good drink, good music, the best of care such as your own Concepcion can give you, silent time for your own regrets, and HOPE,

I am not perfect, nor very good. Thank God I am well, and still in great hopes of doing Good-- In fact...I barely stay in a state of grace. Pray for me a sinner, standing in the need of Grace.

St.Patrick's Feast Day , 2006, The Year of Our Lord,

One Struggling Catholic to another.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

As a small boy I can remember the words of the old hymn sung by Johnny Cash with the background voices of June Carter and the Carter Family singing:
O they tell me of a home far beyond the sky- O they tell me of a
land far away- O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise- O they tell me of an uncloudy day- O the land of the cloudless day-
O the land of the uncloudy day- O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise-O they tell me of an uncloudy day ...

And I can well remember the wondrous days of playing for hours in the woods and fields and coming in to stand before the swamp cooler as the sweat dripping from the face, legs, and back dried as the water-cooled air blew over the skin. What joy waiting for the adults to chip away at the 50 pound block of ice and fill the churn for making home made ice cream---sitting on the top of the churn to hold it down while the older boys took turns cranking the handle--sleeping on the old iron bed on the front porch in the Summer time, falling asleep to the counting of the stars in the sky---no city lights--only stars.

Something happened between youth and adulthood. I live in the same area--Central Texas, but now I find myself avoiding the outdoors most of the year during any daylight hours. Barnabas Collins of the old Dark Shadows could not have been more desperate to avoid daylight as I am in Texas from May 1--September 30. Even with a marvelous pool just 4 steps from the back-door, I find myself not even thinking of getting into the water until the sun is completely down and the sweat from the ice has dried from the first glass of single malt Scotch. On the 1st day of May I go into religious fervor--scurrying through the house to cover every window and glass in all the doors with the heaviest of curtains and covers. Like the cave of Socrates, these openings all remain secure and no light is directly allowed in again until October 1.

But wonders of wonders is that special time of year--October 1 through April 30---those 272 magical days in Texas where the sun does not beat down so maniacally. The sheets and heavy curtains are torn down hungrily and the back door is thrown open all the waken hours of the day and night for the fresh air of the cloudy days. By 7:30 each evening the fire is set--one in each fireplace of cedar or oak, and one in the outdoor pit with pinion wood. With a good book in one hand, and the obligatory Scotch in the other--Joe DiMaggio under foot. (For those of you new to my saunters into my bucolic life, Joe D is the "Mrs. Bennett" blonde Spaniel I rescued some years ago, and whose only joy in life is whinnying about his sorrows and woes like the grand Mother in Pride and Prejudice--"Oh, No one has ever suffered as I have...") And the grand, old-aged woman of our life--Guardian Angel Cat--the gray and orange, tortoise shell cat loved by all, sleeping her 23 hours a day always within arms length of me, unless I am in bed, and then curled above my head. That is when Lou is not home-for when he is there, she is ever in his lap.

Cloudy days are the guardian of a good mans traditions--the family dog and cat, the nightly fires and Scotch--the good books always in hand and piled in gratuitous stacks in every room--every room. Pinion wood for the outdoors and alternating stacks of oak and cedar for the indoor aromas. Now as I barely eye my fifth decade and peak into the Sunset years, I will take a cloudy day any day. Wrapped in the memories of all those who have gone before me--like the favorite, heavy, well-worn housecoat and snuggled in the serene comfort of 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets--cloudy days are now the chicken soup--Oy Vey--the mazza ball soup of my soul.

Having despised the Country music of my parents and grandparents--now finally entering my own "adult" years, I find such haunting truths from the songs of today's country such as Kenny Chesney, "Sunny days seem to hurt the most, wear my pain like an overcoat..." In the light and heat of Texas my pain is ever with me. Under the clouds, it somehow is tempered with the sweet memories of their loves and laughters--regret tempered with the resolve to live better to honor their sweet memories.

"I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." Isaiah 44:22