Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to ya! Can you believe it’s been a year since I asked the question here, “is corned beef and cabbage Irish or American?” That post was a tome, but I had lots of hard evidence that it was indeed eaten on the ould sod, the land of forty shades of green and the Blarney Stone. It’s still available on my blog if you want to read it.
This year, though, I have more evidence, which I just happened upon. I have been writing up a book proposal for a mystery novel that takes place in Ireland. I collect books about Ireland too, and had found a gem at a used book sale last summer. It’s an academic treatment, (yet readable) of the food mentioned in a few of James Joyce’s books and stories. As a reminder, James Joyce’s Ulysses was banned in Boston and just about everywhere else when it was first published. It is now considered one of the best works of fiction in the known world.
The Joyce of Cooking (Station Hill Press, 1986) is by Alison Armstrong, PhD, a Joyce scholar. She says, “Joyce, as a master of realism, put nothing into his writing accidentally,” (Preface, p. XV) making a case that the food mentioned in Ulysses is typical of Dublin fare in 1904, (which she also states), which is when the story takes place.
Don’t worry if you’ve never read Ulysses. Most people I know who claim to have read it, haven’t. And most of us who haven’t read it wish we had. I have taken the Ulysses walking tour in Howth and Dublin, Ireland and like many dabblers, have read snippets.(I fully intend to read the entire book someday, along with Moby Dick. If I’m missing for 2 years, look in my study, under my desk.)
But here’s where it gets good and it’s brief, so stay put. On page 169 of the edition of Ulysses that Armstrong quotes is a mention of the controversial dish many of us will be dining on tonight: corned beef and cabbage. Drum roll….so proud of myself and this happy coincidence that came tumbling into my lap. The character is at the Burton on Duke Street in Dublin.
He gazed round the stooled and tabled eaters, tightening the wings of his nose.
“Two stouts here.”
“One corned and cabbage.”
(p.169 Ulysses, Vintage International, 1934).
Back to Alison Armstrong. She gives a recipe for “Corned and cabbage,” that is identical to the recipe I’m making tonight, with the exception that all cooks tweak CB & C to suit their family traditions or personal tastes. The author researched all the recipes contained in her book in Ireland and other parts of the UK and tested many of them in restaurants in New York.
Here is part of Armstrong’s author bio on Amazon.
Currently teaching in the Dept. of Humanities & Sciences at School of Visual Arts in New York City [since 2003], I have written my Masters’ thesis and my Ph.D. dissertation on work by James Joyce. In the interim, I have taken part in various interanational James Joyce Symposia (in Dublin, Zurich, Trieste…) as well as other Joyce conferences (Venice, Italy; Bertinaro, Italy; Provincetown, NY; Philadelphia, PA….). (www.amazon.com).
- 4 pound corned beef brisket
- 1 medium onion, stuck with 4 or 5 cloves
- 1 sprig thyme and 1 bunch parsley, tied with thread
- 1 whole carrot
- 2 onions, halved
- 2 pounds cabbage, quartered
- Black pepper
- Roll the brisket and tie with string; place it in a large kettle and cover with cold water.
- Add other ingredients except the cabbage and bring to a boil, uncovered.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 3 hours.
- Skim the surface from time to time.
- Meanwhile, wash cabbage in very salty water (this drives out the caterpillars and snails).
- Remove the thyme, parsley and clove-studded onion and discard; add cabbage.
- Simmer until the cabbage is cooked but not soggy, about 20 minutes.
- Remove meat to a heated serving plate and arrange the strained cabbage, halved onions and whole carrots around it.
- Goes well with new potatoes boiled in their skins and Horseradish Sauce or mustard.
- Serves 6 - 8