Here’s a memory from my childhood, which was in many ways more unusual than most. 😉
St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of my father.
He loved this holiday, partly because of his Irish heritage and partly because of the whisky [and whiskey] that flows on this day.
Among the many things that I could tell you about him, I’ll start with the fact that he was a genius. As in, GENIUS. Scary smart. Wickedly funny. Strangely conservative.
Always up to something batty in his spare time.
He was a foodie long before that term existed, and being a physician he thought that he could make anything, no matter how obscure, if only he had a good recipe.
• • •
So one day when I was about 8 years, Dad decided to make Corned Beef.
He bought cookbooks & researched recipes. He bought the perfect pickling spices from catalogues. He bought many large 10 gallon stainless steel cans with lids. He bought 7 or 8 different cuts of meat after talking with meat cutters about which ones would be best. He bought gallons of premium vinegar.
Then he set about making Corned Beef. Lots of it.
This required brining solution, boiled in huge pots on the stove top; large containers in which to put the beef, with brining solution, as it pickled; a cool place, like the basement, to leave the containers; and the ability to turn the containers every so often so that the beef was evenly brined.
It was a mess to make.
• • •
During this activity, my mother and I watched.
She was not thrilled with his latest excuse for spending money; but I, on the other hand, found it fascinating to see what was going to happen next. I had my doubts, but then again I’d seen this guy successfully do many a nutty thing, so I was rooting for him.
Well, as it turns out, when one is making Corned Beef from scratch one can determine if the brining process isn’t going well by using one’s nose.
That is, the meat begins to rot.
It fills a home, from bottom to top in our case, with a pungent carrion potpourri. Easily distinguished from any other normal home scent, by anyone who is willing to admit that there’s a problem here.
• • •
But Daddy wasn’t immediately willing to admit defeat. NO WAY. For days he refused to say that anything was wrong, determined instead to make his project work through the magic of denial.
But he didn’t succeed.
Eventually, my mother convinced him that he had to throw out the rotting meat, and begrudgingly he did so. Then he went to the grocery store to buy a piece of Corned Beef so that we might have it on St. Patrick’s Day.
Providing for us a holiday meal that could well be the most expensive one we ever had!
[Images from here.]