Corned Beef and Cabbage: Reflecting On A Covid-Era St. Patrick’s Day


March 17th is well known as St. Patrick’s Day, which is the traditional death date of Saint Patrick, who is the foremost patron saint of Ireland. During the holiday this year, I lived with Maevis Fahey ‘21, whose dad is an Irishman; excitedly, I learned a lot of historical background and personal stories about this memorial day.  

The celebration atmosphere began last week in school. When I walked into the Senior Commons, all I could see was that St. Patrick’s Day was coming. There were flowers on the table, green shamrock balloons hung on transparent buckets covered with green shamrocks and filled with Hershey’s Kisses and sweets. There were tablecloths decorated with clovers and a big shamrock shaped sign with “St. Patrick’s Day” on it. On Thursday, we all got bags with treats and a Starbucks gift card from the Montrose Parent Guild, which led me right into the celebration mood.

On the actual St. Patrick’s Day, I woke up with all the green decorations on the windows of our home. When I went out for a walk, I saw the neighbors all had their house decorated: green balloons flying around the mailboxes, big shamrocks hanging on the doors, and leprechauns sitting in front of the windows. When I got home, I saw Mr. Fahey with his St. Patrick’s Day shirt on as he cooked corned beef and cabbage in a huge pot. He told me the legend behind St. Patrick’s Day. In the old-time, people in Ireland practiced witchcraft and didn’t believe in God. Because there were snakes all over the place on the island, St. Paddy made a deal with the people that if he chased all the snakes away, they are going to be Christians. Then everyone knows the ending of the myth that St. Patrick chased the snakes away and became the symbol as the hero that banished snakes from Ireland. Plus, Mr. Fahey grew up in Boston, which had a large Irish population back then, and most of the stores would close on that day because everyone would join the most popular celebration: the parade; unfortunately, it was canceled last year and this year because of Covid-19. And he was joking around saying that back in Ireland, the adults will go to bars to celebrate the day. 

After a while, I could smell the food sneaking around the house. Honestly, it smelled like home. I told Maevis that, and she thought it was weird because corned beef and cabbage cannot relate to Chinese food at all. Maybe my mom secretly stole the Irish recipe and incorporated it into the Chinese dish. Who knows? Mixed with the meaty odor, I could sense the scent of the baking bread. With the lead of curiosity, I went downstairs to find out. There was a cake shaped bread sitting on the counter. Then, with Maevis’ lead, I explored the delicious Irish bread with butter. We ended up fighting for the top part, which was really crispy, a completely different taste than the inside. The inside was soft, and all the raisin’s flavor was absorbed into it. The next morning the bread only lasted less than a quarter of it. Of course, Maevis and I finished it. Unfortunately, the bread did not last long, but the memories will be remembered in the heart. 

Carol Li ‘21, Sports Co-Editor