When you make mashed potatoes and add kale or cabbage; you have made this iconic Irish dish. Some people add other things like bacon fat or smoked pork (Irish bacon.) In my most recent attempt, I topped it with sour cream, lardons, and parsley. I made this for my girlfriend, on St. Patrick’s Day, as she dances in the Irish fashion and is hungry for good foods. It was made with kale and presented in a cool way.
Seattle is lousy with Irish. There are Irish pubs, schools with Irish names, Irish looking fonts, redheads, an Irish ex-mayor, a current Irish mayor, Catholics, and dancers. Irish dancers wear sparkly outfits with capes and big curly wigs. They jump around with high kicks and hard or soft soled shoes. Through my research (see: whiskey) I have found the origins of many of these conventions. The shoes and high kicks came about in the days of yore when it was necessary to harvest potatoes as quickly as possible. The dance steps are modifications to centuries old techniques. The cape was originally a burlap sack that could hold upwards of forty-five pounds of tubers. A skilled dancer could fill this six times in one day. The tayto would fly from the earth, spin, and then join its brethren in the bag. When the immigrants came to America, it became necessary to sell some of their daughters. Ornate dresses with panelling on the skirt were put into service along with wigs to disguise the poor nutrition that led to thin hips and brittle hair. In this way, the Irish genes were spread around the nation. It has been a long time since potato farming was the lot of the Irish.
Now, it is likely that your Russet or Yukon Gold passed through Latin American hands on its way to the supermarket. In a couple of generations, these peoples’ descendants will speak as much Spanish as Seattleite mayors know Gaelic and make rich potato laden stews after dancing dances with dubious origins. They will share recipes with people named O’Connor and wonder what all the fuss was about.
It will come to pass, one day, a final slice. Perhaps a large wedge of pecan laden sweetness, perfectly browned on top. Melanoidins remind me what I live for. Maybe a tart key lime with pillowy clouds of Chantilly made by a cute girl or bear-like man; served at a potluck when I only brought wine because I was late and didn’t have time to cook.
It could be something I made myself. A pale imitation of my mom’s famous pumpkin pie that I bake for my brother Gabriel during the holidays. It’s his favorite and she lives so far away.
Would a slice of pizza count? The word means “pie” in Italian and this meditation is under my control. No, that’s silly. Pizza is savory, though delicious, especially when piled with sausage and onion; the favorite of a friend from Australia. He died too young.
There is a chance that this last dessert will be something new entirely, a confection I’ve never seen before. Something from Asia or the Middle East that has yet to hit the American scene. A future lust that I haven’t grown into yet. Something that will change me; change the way I look at the world and every experience I’ve had.
A terrifying thought is that it has already happened and that store bought slice of mince that I tried on a whim was the one. It wasn’t very good, but the ice cream was. I put maple syrup on top and ate it in bed with my girlfriend. We left the dishes dirty in the sink. Maybe that was enough.
My father raises chickens. They lay eggs with bright yellow yolks and very hard shells; two signs of very good nutrition. Their coop is a large chicken palace with two infra-red heaters. One sits inside the main domicile. The other is outside so that they can relax in the winter snow of eastern Washington and feel the heat of the sun on their soft feathers, even though it is overcast and all is grey and brownish grey. Food scraps from his kitchen are fed to them. Hearts of brassica, carrot ends, and even whole bunches of grapes add to their cracked corn. Once, in the winter, they gave him eight eggs instead of the usual four. Hens usually don’t lay eggs at all this time of year. But these birds love him and want to keep him strong. He dines on over medium eggs and hash browns in the morning; a favorite meal since he was a boy in Oklahoma. He thinks of solar panels for the roof of his coop. He thinks of his grandson in Montana and his brood spread from Boston to Seattle. As he breaks the yolk and lets it’s yellow glory bless his potatoes, he is happy for one more day in this beautiful world with his loving wife.
The folds in a chef’s toque, his silly hat, represent the hundred ways he knows how to cook an egg: poached, folded with fillings, fried, en cocotte (the dish, not the lady of the night), boiled with cracked shells and flavored with tea, cold or hot; subdivided and listed forever. This versatility is caused by how different the yolk is from the white. An egg white, or albumen, is mostly water and protein, with some minerals and membranes, and almost no fat. It protects the fertilized yolk and can protect man when being used to make vaccines. The yolk is full of magic. It is loaded with cholesterol and the holy chemical lecithin. Lecithin is the shortening of the way. It can bring together polar and non-polar molecules to make a delicious sauce Bearnaise. This sauce can be put on fish and served as an apology for not really being there for someone at some time in the past when they needed you most.
Mom used to make us bacon and eggs for breakfast. She would cut the bacon with scissors directly into a large cast iron skillet and add many eggs to the fat and crisp meat. Then served it to her three boys. This happened on Saturdays.
An egg has an air sac on the larger end. As the egg ages, this air sac gets larger. The yolk, too, grows as it takes water from the albumen. Water is lost to the atmosphere as well. An egg that is old enough will float in water.
If you need to make soap from scratch you can make lye from wood ash. Fill a container with hardwood ash. Pour rainwater through it and reserve. Test the pH by floating a raw egg in the solution. If it sinks, the solution is too weak. If it floats, it is too strong. If it settles in the middle, it is perfect. You are ready to be cleansed.