I am half Irish and half Italian. My coloring is very fair, like my father, who was Irish, whereas my sister has darker hair, eyes and skin tone, like my Italian mother. Subsequently, growing up, she was referred to as 'The Italian One,' and I was 'The Irish One.' At the time I liked this, because it was another connection to my father, who was beloved by everyone who knew him, and who died when we were young. My mother embraced all that was Irish, and helped us to get to know our Irish heritage and celebrated it always. As a result, she loves St. Patrick's Day better than anyone I know.
Growing up, we attended Catholic school and wore uniforms each day. St. Patrick's Day was the one day of the year that we were allowed to embellish those uniforms. As there were many kids of Irish descent in our school, there was a lot of embellishing. We wore green carnations, green socks, boys wore green ties, and just about everyone, it seemed, had a button that said "Kiss Me I'm Irish." Imagine my surprise, when in sixth grade, Sister Francis Claire actually did just that! It was perhaps to that point in my life, my most embarrassing moment.
When we were younger, we usually visited with my Irish Nana around St. Patrick's Day, and although I loathe corned beef and cabbage, I always looked forward to the Irish soda bread she made. As a kid, I did not appreciate the caraway seeds, but as an adult I have come to enjoy them. Here is her recipe. It is a very moist bread, and with or without the caraway seeds, delicious. Serve with Irish butter for a real treat. These days, my husband and I have Reuben sandwiches for dinner on St. Patrick's Day (corned beef, cabbage in the form of sauerkraut), but I still make Nana's Irish soda bread.
Madelyn Durkin Brennan's Irish Soda Bread
3 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbs caraway seeds (Unless you don't like them)
1 cup of raisins (I like a mix of regular and golden raisins)
2 cups sour cream
2 Tbs melted butter
Hand mix dry ingredients / liquid ingredients in separate bowls. Combine and add a bit more flour to form 2 mounds. Form the mounds, smooth a bit. Sprinkle some raw or demerara sugar on top, if desired (this will give it a bit of a crunch on the top).
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.