Confession time: I’m Irish, I obsess over food and I have long envied the relationship my Italian friends have with their culinary heritage. This always comes to a boil in March, with St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day essentially running together.
St. Joseph’s Day is another chance to recognize how much Italian flavor influences the food life of New Orleans.
Then there’s St. Patrick’s Day, where food is basically a punch line.
It’s the cabbages thrown from parades, or that potato-inspired restaurant special.
But l believe the Irish condition can contribute something to the New Orleans table as fundamental as red gravy. It’s the Irish compulsion for hospitality.
New Orleans runs on hospitality, culturally, economically. The settings and relationships can change, but hospitality is always about personality, respect and a generosity of time and spirit.
In my own family, we did not learn that we were Irish through genealogy kits, and definitely not through cooking. We learned we were Irish through interactions.
It meant being up for anything, doing anything for your people and not getting too high and mighty about yourself. We were taught that all of this came from the involuntary influence of being Irish. Every one of those qualities is also part of making hospitality tick.
Of course my family is also prone to chalk up lost tempers, long grudges and worse to “being Irish.” But if we’re not using holidays to uplift the best of what we can be, what good are they?
The compulsion toward hospitality is not an exclusive Irish trait, not by a long shot. And that’s the point. It’s a cultural value, one that can be learned, taught, improved, shared, lost and recovered.
The Irish gift of hospitality deserves a toast. And if that makes you feel a little Irish even after the parades have rolled, well then cheers to you.