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Growing Up Mixed Heritage: A look back at the traditional St. Patrick’s Day

The traditional St. Patrick's Day meal: corned beef and cabbage with grain mustard.
The traditional St. Patrick's Day meal: corned beef and cabbage with grain mustard.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Star Career Academy chef Victor McNulty and listen to the memories he has about celebrating St. Patrick's Day in a mixed heritage household. Many Irish-Italians were even able to relate to his story. We hope you enjoy!

"With a name like McNulty, and being raised in an Irish Catholic household – and in the Bronx – one might think that corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes would be an obligatory staple. (It was not.)

Luckily, the other half of my lineage is Italian – Sicilian, in fact. So…the house was always filled with familiar smells of garlicky tomato sauce (NOT gravy, by the way…but that’s a whole other blog), chicken cutlets, pizza, meatballs, escarole and the alike.

The pungent smell of boiled cured meat, cabbage and root vegetable only wafted through the air but once a year…and we would cry – forgetting what day it was, even though we were all dressed in green. We would eat it to make my dad happy, but always had plenty of jokes to go along with the grain mustard.

He took it all in stride, fully enjoying his traditional meal.

(I will say…we never had a problem with the Soda Bread.)

I am not sure if it took growing up and attending culinary school, or growing up and becoming a father myself, or just growing up – made me miss the smell of that annual meal and finally appreciate it for its simple grandeur.

Since that revelation, I’ve served it every year at my own restaurants (and even made extra for the staff). I taught my students to make it exactly how dad did when I became a teacher. I have it every year, regardless of which Star Career Academy campus I travel to on March 17th. I even force my two sons to eat it.

Everybody might be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but I am Irish every day, and I have the shamrock tattoo to prove it. ‘Erin go bragh’ – indeed!

Ironically, or fittingly, I have attached my Sicilian Mother’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Mangia!"

Soda Bread Recipe:
(sweeter and richer than most…)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Using a wooden spoon, sift together the following dry ingredients:

· 4 cups of all-purpose flour

· 5 teaspoons of baking powder

· 3/4 cup of sugar

· 1 teaspoon of salt

· 1 1/2 cups of raisins (can mix light and dark)

· 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds (optional)

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients

· 2 cups of buttermilk

· 1 slightly beaten large egg

· 1 teaspoon of salad oil

Add the wet and dry ingredients together, mix and then pour into greased floured pans and let sit for 15 minutes. (No need to knead.)

Bake for one hour, until golden.

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