On March 17, hibernophiles (Irish lovers) and those with genuine Irish roots - Patrick "McDreamy" Dempsey, Conan O'Brien, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Brady, Jimmy Breslin and members of the Kennedy clan - can honor the saint by going green.
Possibly St. Patrick himself might have been more tolerant of the snakes (which legend says he expelled from the Emerald Isles with a fiery sermon) if he had known about the ecological interconnections of wildlife.
Even if you're not Irish, it's time for a crash course on how to squeeze the best and most enjoyment out of the holiday with a healthy twist on the traditional hoopla.
The madness of tinting bodies of water green - as the Chicago River in 2005 - as well as beer, bagels, cookies, matzo balls and milkshakes can be tempered without losing the spirit of the holiday. The essence of living green is buying local and organically grown fruits and veggies and eliminating artificial colorings and other additives.
You can still enjoy green Guinness by pouring it into a green-tinted glass; make matzo balls with chopped parsley or bagels with pureed broccoli or spinach; garnish ice cream sundaes, shakes and heady libations with mint leaves; or simply look at the world through green-colored eyeglasses - much safer on the water supply and your digestive system.
Whip up a healthy and hearty chili con blarney with green tomatoes, green peppers, green onions, white Northern beans and ground turkey.
Or a St. Patrick pizza topped with green peppers, green olives, chopped spinach and broccoli. Instead of corned beef and cabbage, substitute a spicy turkey loaf or pastrami stewed with cabbage, turnips, carrots and other root vegetables. For dessert, concoct a banana split with - what else? - a green banana (only kidding), pistachio and mint ice creams and warm mint sauce.
For the non-food part, wear green (organic cotton, of course) from your underwear out (although a little leprechaun told me that blue used to be the color of this day), and pin a shamrock to your lapel. Should you find a four-leaf clover on this grand day, get ready for the luck of the Irish to hit you with a pot of gold - or at least with hope, faith, love and other special things.
The ancient Druids believed that such a rare clover could smoke out witches and other demons. Today's New Age lore has it that clovers release energy and tweak your judgment.
My contribution to a St. Patrick's Day party is a traditional festive green-and-white dish called "colcannon," which is the Irish version of the Brit's "bubble and squeak." Food folklore claims that colcannon was eaten on the first day of spring, when the peasants were given gifts of freshly churned butter and buttermilk.
Colcannon was also popular on All Saints' Day or Halloween, and some Irish families would plate up a generous serving with a dollop of butter on top for the fairies and ghosts to gobble up. Others would blend assorted charms into the mixture that would have symbolic meanings.
The person who found a button in their mouthful of colcannon would remain a bachelor, a thimble would portent spinsterhood, while a ring meant marriage within the coming year.
My version is a vegetarian side dish minus the tooth-breaking charms for your St. Patty's brunch or dinner to complement your chicken, fish or turkey meatloaf to be downed, of course, with a pint of Guinness for extra measure.
- 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1/2 cup of milk or plain soy or rice milk
- 2 cups of chopped cabbage or kale
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1/4 cup of chopped green onions, leeks or scallions
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- Dash of nutmeg
(Adjust milk and butter proportions for your personal taste)
Boil the potatoes and cabbage or kale in two separate pans of salted water until tender. Drain the cabbage or kale and chop finely. Drain the potatoes and mash by hand until smooth.
In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook the onions in the milk until tender. Add potatoes, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg, stirring until well blended. Add the cabbage and stir until mashed-potato smooth.
On a large platter, form a mound with a well or indentation in the middle and fill with chopped scallions, a dot of butter or your favorite cheese.