by Janet Elizabeth Lynn
St. Patrick’s Day recipe at the end of this post.
I grew up on Long Island, New York. I’m half Irish and half Italian, the two big I’s of the world!
In honor of my Irish heritage, the Italian side of my family celebrated St. Patrick’s Day for my father. Every, and I mean every, St. Paddy’s Day we had corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes and Potato Seedy Cake.
My brother and I helped cook. While we made the Potato Seedy Cake, our mother regaled us with stories about the leprechauns of Ireland and the pots of gold we would get if we caught one. And of course, the magic of Brigadoon. Ireland has lots of grass, and is green because it rains a lot (that’s why it’s called the Emerald Isle). Mother described a leprechaun as a man dressed in green, wearing a hat.
Often, our family would come to visit us, and we would meet them in the city. 1950s New York still had the grand hotels complete with bell hops and elevator operators. I remember one Saturday we made our trek to Manhattan to one of its grand hotels. I don’t remember which one, but it was big, and I was small. The large lobby had the most intricate flower pattern carpet, mostly green. My brother and I were sure we were in Brigadoon.
My parents led us to the elevators and we waited. The “ding” meant the elevator had arrived. The doors opened, and standing before us was a man dressed in a green uniform with a green hat. My brother and I were in awe that there was a leprechaun standing before us! In keeping with the story of the pot of gold, we ran up and grabbed the poor man around the knees and yelled, “Mommy we caught one.”
Embarrassed, my parents did everything they could to peel us off of him. We were determined to get our pot of gold and clung on to him for dear life. Thankfully, the young man was strong enough to withstand two kids pushing and squeezing him not to fall over while the rest of the people on the elevator…stood patiently and waited.
The chaos that followed with people trying to get around us in the elevator lasted what seemed like hours. My parents succeeded in liberating the poor man and took us to the side screaming and crying. It wasn’t that we would lose our pot of gold, but that we would have to give up the idea of taking him to school on Monday for show and tell.
The saying goes, “All’s well that ends well”. We got over it, but it took a long time for us to forgive our parents for our not having a show and tell leprechaun on Monday.
Potato Seedy Cake
Nothing beats this wonderful cake on a cold and stormy March. Serve it from the oven with loads of unsalted butter—a definite magical Irish moment.
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon Caraway seeds
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 extra large eggs or 3 large eggs
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and allspice. Rub in the butter. Add caraway seeds. Add currants and mashed potatoes, mixing well. Add eggs. Place in a well-greased flat pan (8×8 inches), and bake in preheated hot oven (425° F.) for 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve hot with butter.
Yields: 9 squares
Preparation time: 40 minutes
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