Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17 holds a special place in my life.  It was the day I met my husband on a blind date in Boston.  And each year of the fifty-eight years we were married, we celebrated that day rather than our wedding anniversary as “Our Day”. But the story of friends and food are intertwined.

Having grown up in Massachusetts, my mother usually cooked a New England Boiled Dinner in celebration of St. Patrick though we were not Irish. The name really doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it consisted of a corned brisket of beef, simmered for hours until tender and then when it was finished, out came the meat and into the meat flavored liquid went the carrots, rutabaga chunks, whole onions and as they finished cooking the wedges of green cabbage were added and cooked. It is usually served with mustard and horseradish to enhance the meat.

About thirty years ago another couple and my husband and I started a decades’ long tradition of an annual St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinner. It was always at our home and it didn’t necessarily happen on the actual date due to scheduling conflicts.  We even had it as late as July one year.  But it was something that we all looked forward to no matter when the occasion occurred. 

Several years ago our family was struggling with my husband’s dementia and I had to tell our dear friends that we would not be able to have our annual celebration as my time and energies were elsewhere.  The husband of the couple who is an excellent cook told me to invite our immediate family for dinner on March 17 and he would bring us a corned beef and cabbage dinner, but he and his wife would not be joining us.  At the appointed time he drove in and literally came staggering up our front walk under the weight of a huge platter piled high with our dinner including a fantastic maple syrup sauce to pour over the meat.  He set it in the middle of our dining room table, got a big hug from us and left. It still brings tears to my eyes writing this. In spite of all the turmoil going on in our household, this gift of love was so appreciated.  We could celebrate a special day with the help of our friends.

In the years since, we have again had our annual feast.  I have even learned to corn my own beef.  Being with friends and sharing food are special times whether it is St. Patrick’s Day or not.