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Written on Thanksgiving 2015
Now don’t think to yourself, “Rob has really gone off the deep end now”. We all know that happened long ago. Must be that, comfort food smells as memory inducers thing, but it is Thanksgiving day and I’m thinking Irish Soda Bread. So if after a few of my Catholic School stories you are wondering, if having missed the yard sticks, and ear pulling you benefited somehow, as we say in Da Bronx, “Forgeddaboutit!” (The pronunciation is universal, while the spelling is not, if fact,is still progressing).
With that in mind and submitted for you approval, St. Patrick’s Day at St. Helena’s circa 1970 something.
Long before Lord of the Dance, Celtic Women, Martha Stewart, or even AC/DC, these celebrations of Food, and Song, Music and Dance in the Irish tradition were developing in the small Irish hamlet tucked between Westchester Avenue and Olmstead Avenue in Da Bronx. Being Italian-Irish as opposed to Irish-Italian, I couldn’t say for sure if this took place on or before the actual day we call St. Patrick’s Day. I assume it did take place before since I know Columbus Day was a School holiday at this time, and at our state of evolution in 1970 something, if St. Patrick’s day was not I’m pretty sure war would have ensued and I could not be writing this now in 2015 something.
What a joy filled occasion it was back in the day. The day would start as any day in St. Helena’s would then. The pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Which went like this, I think.
(disclaimer, as I said we were not yet fully developed in the brain back then so feel free to insert any religious deity, or none, any flag colors, or none, any national sexual orientation or disorientation or none, group of letters, numbers, symbols, light beer, dark beer, cans, or bottles, that may be required at present time as to be non offensive, non discriminatory, non invasive, non inclusive, inclusive, conclusive, non disruptive, non destructive, or just outright silly. Which will allow you to avoid costly litigation and logical thinking.)
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.
After which we said something else or other and did this or that, leading directly into a very Irish young man playing the bagpipes, a rendition of Amazing Grace even AC/DC had not thought of yet. Upon completion of which the most beautiful Irish girls in the whole neighborhood would put some very loud shoes on their feet and dance so wonderfully and fast that during their performance the most delicious Irish Soda Bread would be cooked to perfection, and set before us with sticks of real butter and jars of real jams and jellies.
Who was the best dancer and who brought the best Soda Bread? Colleen, or Eileen, or Mary, or Catherine…O’ or Mac, all I know is it had the greatest smell as the pounds of butter slowly melted into it, and the bagpiper was long forgotten beyond the plaid uniform and knee socks. And shall remain a memory long after the days in Central Park for St. Patrick’s Day, with the mud and the blood and the beer, have vacated this beer congested brain. I can smell the Turkey cooking now so I’m off to sing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and switch gears again. I love my Irish heritage, and the memories it provided that are truly priceless. I know that yours are too.
The names may have been changed or forgotten but the comfort that Irish Soda Bread with lots of butter and jam brings will remain forever.