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The Wetting of the Green March 15, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, food, Irish Channel, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
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It was a perfect day for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade: grey and drizzly with showers just strong enough to get you well wet but not to soak and chill to the bone. It was as if God smiled down on the parade, in that Odd way we like here abouts on Toulouse Street, and blessed the day with a little bit of Irish weather.

This was no discouragement to hardy New Orleans parade goers, wether died in the wool Irish or just the sort who will not miss a single party in the calendar, the ones who are dragging their hung-over selves out of the house right now looking for the Mardi Gras Indians on this Super Sunday. If anything the atmosphere is most frenzied when only the absolutely maddest of the mad for parades are out in the steady rain, rushing down beers before they can get watered down.

The damp streets were littered with beads and paper flowers, the gutters full of soggy boxes of Lucky Charms and melting bars of Irish Spring. In addition to the usual beads, the marchers and riders toss some Odd things at the Irish Channel parade, and–judging from the thick litter of unbroken beads that made the footing treacherous–it is throws that speak somehow of the Irish (even if it is something as tacky as a bar of green soap) that excite the parade goers.

Most of the afternoon not taken up with drinking is spent catching cabbage. To have a proper Irish Channel St. Patrick’s party, it is important to start the brisket (and the drinking) early and then catch and cook enough vegetebles to lay a proper foundation for the house before the guests get too far into the whiskey.

We did ourselves proud once again, hauling away two full sacks of cabbage. I credit my son’s best friend, a tall thin kid on a vegan diet with the look of a hungry waif about him. He was a cabbage magnet and a cabbage madman. By the time we were well into filling the second sack (and starting to think about who would want to carry 100 pounds of cabbage a half mile back to the house), we tried to get him to slow down but he would have none of it.

Our real problem was this: potatoes. Typically the riders mix in carrots, onions and potatoes with all the cabbage so that it’s possible to go home and have a proper dinner boiled up with just what’s been caught. By halfway through the parade we were begging for potatoes as if they were prized dobloons. Any thrower who waved one about was suddenly surrounded by a potato crazy mob, and they often retreated into the inner part of the float for their own safety as they tossed a lone potato into the air.

By the end of the parade we had a grand total of three potatoes to show for all our effort, and a dozen little snack-sized bags of those mini-carrots people put out on buffets. Unless Jesus showed up at the house later we had no where near enough. I had caught one large plastic bag in which a thoughtful woman had places a quarter cabbage, a potato, an oninion and a couple of proper carrots. Whoever you are, thank you. We had a couple other onions and a few full sized carrots, which would probaby do, but it was an absolute potato famine no where near enough to fill dozens of proper St. Patrick’s day plates.

Being the sort who drag themselves out in the rain for what is truly one of the best parades New Orleans has to offer, we cracked open the Micheal Collins Single Malt and carried on. By the time the cabbage (and the lonely potatoes) were ready we were all famished and ready to gobble down the cabbage-heavy boil along with the steak-and-Guinness pie and the excellent soda bread our host had made from scratch. When I finally fought my way to the front the potatoes were gone but I did manage a bit of a carrot so I had some color on the plate.

Having slept in on New Year’s Day and so missed out on the resolution thing, and having long ago forgone abstinence for Lent, I had a few resolutions this morning. Next year we bring the old kid’s wagon. I am not humping a hundred pounds of cabbage over my shoulders ever again.

Second, the Irish half of the family and I are going to whip up a big batch of our one of our favorites, Colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage(, to bring to the O’Hackenbergs. If the riders aren’t going to throw a proper mix of vegetables, we are not going to let Greg and Christy’s friend Ian or the rest of us Irish-for-a-day go without spuds.

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