March 17 ...
A dispensation for St Pat’s Day.
Today, I don’t need to tell you, is St Patrick’s Day – the day when everyone who is Irish, thinks they may be Irish, or wishes they were Irish celebrate with a little drink. Or sometimes a big green drink.
The Irish are suspected of a certain fondness for a nice drink, which could be a potential problem, given that the national saint’s day falls during the period of Lent. Pope Gregory realised way back in the sixteenth century that it was an impossible abstinence request, and made the very sensible decision to avoid the issue, and gave a dispensation for the day. Since then the Irish have made thanks with the toast “Good luck and long life to the Council of Trent; it took away meat but left us the drink.” Unless the story is all blarney of course. Perhaps someone theologically inclined could clarify it for us?
The generic St Paddy’s day drink is the Pota Phadraig, or Patrick's pot. It may be beer or whiskey or whiskey punch or any appropriate substitute, but its most important feature is that it is always full. St Patrick supposedly rid Ireland of snakes, but his far greater legacy was the mythical pot that never emptied, the pot that many Irish and wannabe-Irish have been trying to find the bottom of ever since. His other great Lenten gift is also summed up in the popular song about him:
“This ended, our worshipful spoon
Went to visit an elegant fellow,
Whose practice, each cool afternoon,
Was to get most delightfully mellow.
That day, with a black-jack of beer
It chanced he was treating a party;
Says the Saint—'This good day, do you hear,
I drank nothing to speak of, my hearty!
So give me a pull at the pot!' "
The pewter he lifted in sport,
(Believe me, I tell you no fable),
A gallon he drank from the quart,
And then placed it full on the table.
A miracle!' every one said,
And they all took a haul at the stingo;
They were capital hands at the trade,
And drank till they fell; yet, by jingo,
The pot still frothed over the brim!
“Next day. quoth his host, ' 'Tis a fast,
And I've naught in my larder but mutton;
And, on Fridays, who'd make such repast,
Except an unchristian-like glutton!'
Says Pat, 'Cease your nonsense, I beg,
What you tell me is nothing but gammon;
Take my compliments down to the leg,
And bid it come hither a salmon!'
And the leg most politely complied!”
A very traditional libation to the Saint is whisky punch, as this writer says so eloquently:
“Good whisky-punch, when well made, is, certainly, of all the tipples ever invented by man, the most insinuating and the most loving ; because, more than any other, it disposes the tippler to be pleased with himself. It brightens his hopes, assuages his sorrows, crumbles down his difficulties, softens the hostility of his enemies, and, in fact, induces him for the time being to think generously of all mankind, at the tip-top of which, it naturally and good-naturedly places his own dear self, with a glass in one hand and a mug in the other, without a wish ungratified, and as unsuspicious of evil as if not a single drop of gall, or a sprig of wormwood, existed on the face of the earth.
[Hints for the table: or, The economy of good living. J. Timbs, 1859]
And here is how to make it. Take note of Father Maguire’s preferred version, I reckon it could become very popular ….
The mystery of making whisky-punch comes with practice. The sugar should be first
dissolved in a small quantity of water, which must be what the Frisk cull " screeching hot.'' Next throw in the whisky. Then add a thin shaving of fresh lemon peel. Then add the rest of the water, so that the spirits will be a third of the mixture. Lastly,— Drink ! Lemon-juice. is deleterious and should be eschewed. What is called " Father Maguire's receipt for making Punch." is more simple than the above. It runs thus,—First put in your sugar, then add the whisky—and every drop of water after that spoils the punch.
Noctes Ambrosianæ, By
Tomorrow’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
I never turned to drink. It seemed to turn to me. Brendan Behan (a 2 or 3 bottle sof whisky a day man)
And a very happy St. Patrick's Day to you - we aren't quite on Monday yet here in Canada, but will be pretty soon.
I am going to have a tiny glass of sherry (not a big one, I assure you!)- in the manner of my grandmother, who was partly of Scotch-Irish descent. Though I do not know if they liked tiny glasses of sherry.
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