What?  I’m Irish?  Who says?  “They” do.  A quick search of "Irish Stereotypes" should have been all the proof I needed.  Everything about me is right off the Irish script, but I had not a clue until I met "them."  

In 2000 my husband and I moved to New Jersey.  He to continue his near enslavement (at least we did get paid), around the clock working in a bank in the city (just a bigger city) while I adjusted to life far, far, far away from home and family.  We had three little boys (the third born that first winter after we arrived) and my days were filled with playing outside, going to the library, bug collecting, grocery shopping, reading stacks and stacks of books, drawing, scrap booking, and in general a carefree life without  a clock.  Dad went in to work late and came home literally in the middle of the night… or the next morning.  We ate when we wanted, played when we wanted, and went to bed when we wanted.  If I had only known then how peaceful, easy, and free that life really was! Then again, how do you tell a Mom of three little kids that her life is easy?  Wow, I am way, way, way off track.  This picture just make me really nostalgic!  These three are almost as tall as me, as tall as me, and way taller than me!  Back on track...

The four of us went everywhere together and as time went I found that we were frequently being stopped by older gentlemen who would ask us if we were Irish.  They did not really want an answer.  They were already smiling… “of course you are.”  The first few times it really stumped me.  “Well, I do not know.”  Then it occurred to me that our last name was Ragan… as in formerly O’Regan.  Yes, I felt a little foolish once I registered that.  My husband's family descends from the Tribe of Tara complete with a coat of arms with dolphins on it.  The name means "Little King" (ironic because I have yet to meet a Ragan shorter than 6 foot) and they immigrated to North America in the 1600s.  I quickly got better at answering “yes” right away and smiling, but it really got me thinking…  

Did we really LOOK that Irish?  I guess I had often heard my mother in-law refer to my husband as “Black Irish” (super fair skin and super black hair) and after thinking about it, I was also aware that my Dad had often enough been asked the same question (formerly blonde, round face, super blue eyes and a personality really right off the Irish script).  I was still not sure what "Irish" looked like, but apparently my three little round-faced boys looked it and so I figured that we had better start celebrating the Irish’s biggest holiday here in the United States...       St. Patrick's Day! 

I had grown up with the Leprechauns visiting our classrooms back in Texas, but nothing like was available here on the East Coast.  The grocery stores were full of “Irish” food.  Seriously, who can honestly claim that green DYE makes something Irish?!  No, this was real stuff… soda bread, hot cross buns, corn beef stew, and imported cheeses and butters!  

(Incidentally, if someone ever writes my history, it might be worth noting that this was also the beginning of my being a holiday-celebrator.  Just, so you know.  This is 'that' moment.)  
I checked out a Rain Dance film from the library and a recipe for corn beef stew off the internet.  Then on March 17, 2001… our family celebrated St. Patrick’s Day for the very first time!  It has now evolved into a full on holiday at our house.  Isn't it funny how small things can sometime start out?  In time, I would find out that our strongest and most recent Irish connections actually came from my side of the family (McCanns and Stanleys both immigrated in the 1800s), add the color orange to the green, understand why both colors, experience St. Patrick’s Day in Walnut Heights Elementary, California with Ms. Nancy (I suspect that celebration is not to be topped by a single other locale in all of the USA), find out quite by accident that my family recipe book had an authentic Irish recipe in it that had been handed down, and give birth to my very own mischievous princess, but... those are all their own stories.  So for now, have some stew!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Adapted from a recipe supplied to an unknown internet site (long before I knew I should remember that kind of thing) courtesy of a Mrs. Buckeye.  Thank you Mrs. Buckeye.  Whoever you are.

A package of corned beef brisket (whatever size fits your pot)
2 onions, quartered
Tarragon vinegar (or some sort of flavored vinegar)
small potatoes, whole
Carrots, sliced or baby carrots, whole
1 cabbage head sliced
2 cups of water

Combined it all in your pot with the carrots on the bottom and the cabbage on the top.  Cover and cook on low 10-12 hours or high 6-7 hours.  Perfect!