According to statistics, there are more than 33 million people in America–a little more than 10% of the population–who lay claim to Irish ancestors.
I am not one of them.
My bloodlines are strictly eastern European and I will take pierogi over corned beef and cabbage any day, a shot of vodka (it has to be from Poland) instead of a beer, a plate of the fruit-filled pastries called kolachki over . . . well, pretty much over anything!
So why begin my new Ethnic Eats mystery series with “Irish Stewed” and Irish food?
The answer is really pretty simple. In the book, the heroine, Laurel Inwood, meets a man named Declan Fury who comes from a big, boisterous, rollicking Irish family. It’s no coincidence that my husband, David, comes from a big, boisterous . . . well, you get the picture.
David’s ancestors were railroaders, firemen and housekeepers. Our current circle (it’s a big one) of relatives includes bagpipers and cops and any number of in-laws, nieces and nephews who will argue politics passionately with you one moment, then drape an arm around your shoulders and give you a hug the next.
One of our best family traditions is a huge (we’re talking more than 100 people) St. Patrick’s Day party where David and I are always in charge of the colcannon. Ever have it? For the uninitiated, colcannon is simply mashed potatoes (the more butter added, the better) mixed with chopped steamed cabbage and kale. For our crowd, we start with fifty pounds of potatoes and every last bit of it is eaten.
Ah, if Laurel only had to worry about the Irish food she’s decided to add to the menu at her aunt’s restaurant! Life would be good if she could concentrate on boxty and soda bread, not on the body she finds in a booth her first day on the job. Serving up plates of Irish stew would be easier if she wasn’t so busy tracking down suspects, and since the victim is a TV investigative reporter, there are plenty to be had.
In addition to giving me the chance to craft a fun mystery, writing about ethnic food has allowed me to explore heritage and how our sense of self is wrapped up in memories and memories often come with the aroma of home cooking. How about you? What ethnic foods did you grow up eating?
“Irish Stewed,” book #1 of the Ethnic Eats mystery series, goes on sale May 3.