10 Best things about being Irish….
The color green
What better way to give a nod to the holiday celebrating the man who drove the snakes from the Ersin Isle than a Ten Best celebrating all things Irish? And who better to do it than me? I am, after all, half Irish (my father is full-blooded) and I will hopefully one day wear the big red nose that all the middle-aged Irish guys in my old neighborhood seem to sport. Let’s start with the basics: the color green. Green has connotations of newness, purity, facility. Spring is green. Environmentally friendly projects are green. It is the color of roughly one-third of my wardrobe and also the color of money. Green beer, however, is just wrong.
The booze thing
Let’s get this out of the way posthaste. Are the Irish genetically predisposed to drink every other ethnic group (with the possible exception of the Russians) under the table? We could go back and forth on this all day, but the short answer is: Yes, Irish people like to drink and they are very good at it. And you should be thankful for that genetic quirk that made possible Bushmill’s single malt whiskey and Guinness beer, which might possibly exist in a food group all its own.
Okay, based on that last statement, I’ve decided Guinness gets its own entry. Arthur Guinness took a £100 gift from the Archbishop of Cashel and started a brewery in Leixlip. The rest is delicious history. Some trivia: Until the 1970s, British doctors told new mothers to dip a hot poker in a pint of Guinness and drain the whole thing. Guinness is not vegan – it uses fish-based isinglass as a fining agent. And the country that drinks the most Guinness? You guessed it – Nigeria.
Sure, being a US citizen is great. We can vote. We can travel freely throughout the lower 48 states. We can raise ire in other peoples when we go to visit their countries and then complain about how unlike the good ol’ US of A their lands are. But over in Ireland their citizenship laws reflect the prevailing attitudes of leniency and disrespect for authority, enabling anybody who can prove Irish ancestry a shot at being listed on the official rolls. According to the Embassy of Ireland in Washington DC (or its website anyway), “Anyone born outside Ireland, whose father or mother is an Irish citizen not born in Ireland, can become an Irish citizen by having his or her birth entered in the Irish Register of Foreign Births at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin or at the nearest Irish diplomatic or consular mission.” Citizenship gives you the right to get overly emotional about soccer, swear at will and drunkenly punch your best friend in the face once in a while.
The fragile complexion
Red hair, freckles and blue eyes are not the sole properties of the Irish – what’s up with Danny Bonaduce? – but we do them better than anyone else. According to dubious reference site Wikipedia, “As many as 10 percent of the Irish population have ginger or strawberry blond hair. It is thought that up to 35 percent of the Irish population carries the recessive ‘ginger gene.”” Or something. For a more qualitative analysis, witness desperate housewife Marcia Cross, supermodel Angie Everhart, Spice Girl Geri Halliwell and other hotties who bear the mark of Cain. It is also said that redheads have fiery tempers. I know this to be true.
Famed in story and song
Oscar Wilde. Jonathan Swift. George Bernard Shaw. Yeats. Joyce. Samuel Beckett. Finn M’Coul and the Salmon of Knowledge. The Song of Amergin. Riverdance. That sweaty Riverdance guy. Van Morrison. The bouzouki. Bob Geldof. There’s lots more, but that will do for now.
The Scottish think they own this one, and that damn lying Wikipedia says that bagpipes possibly originated in the Middle East. But I know better. Bagpipes are Irish. Anything capable of making a sound like that must be. Seriously, though, Irish bagpipes are also called Uillean or elbow pipes and are smaller than their Highland cousins. They also have more range and a closed chanter, which means you can actually stop the sound coming from them instead of having it drone on like that.
The potato turned on the Irish back in the mid-19th century, when a water-based mold wiped out the entire crop. But before then, and since, the potato has been an important part of Irish cuisine, the principal ingredient in dishes like colcannon and champ and a supporting player in stews and shepherd’s pie. Most Irish people love them so much we’ll eat them raw and whole, like apples. That’s a joke.
You’ve got to love a culture whose most endearing icon is a ruddy-faced, bearded dwarf in a funny hat who, if you can catch and subdue him, will give you a pot of gold.
St. Patrick’s Day
How many nationalities have an entire day set aside to honor their bad habits? Well, maybe a few. But St. Patrick’s Day is the most famous of them all, a day when everyone of Irish descent welcomes with open arms and flowing taps everyone else in the world into their tribe.