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for DJ - and all my Irish friends- too many to list! -Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Mar. 17, 2014 The Great Corned Beef Hunt Day #33
The Great Corned Beef Hunt
by Janet S. Tiger (c) 2014 all rights
(A young man comes out onstage. He is wearing something - or everything - green. And he has a big smile on his face.)
(Thick Irish accent) Top o the mornin' to you all!
(Regular Boston accent) And that's about it for my Irish accent!
But I am Irish...through and through, and today is St. Patrick's Day - the grandest holiday of the year!
At least that's what my Uncle Joe used to say, and my mother would tell him to be quiet, that Easter was the most important, because that was the day Jesus returned, but Uncle Joe would argue with her - the sign of truly brave man, or one who had already put in a few pints! -
(imitates a thick Irish accent) But Molly, I didn't tell ye that Easter was grandest, you can surely have Easter as the most important, no doubt, but when it comes to grand, there is no other choice except it be St. Patrick's Day!
(Himself again) And then he would recount why Christmas was really for the children, Ash Wednesday for the Pious and Fat Tuesday for the gluttons! But for the drinking man - and my Uncle Joe was that - there was no grander day than 'the wearin' of the green'
But my Uncle Joe felt that children should not be drinking, and they needed to enjoy the day, too, so that was the reason to involve the children in finding- as he put it- 'the finest tastin' corned beef in the town' to eat on St. Patrick's Day - along with cabbage and potatoes, of course.
So, starting about a week before the big day, Uncle Joe would take me and my brothers and sisters on what would become some of the grandest days of our lives! First, we would take the bus or subway to the finer neighborhoods in Boston, and he would herd us in, like Irish cattle of some variety into these - hi-falutin'! - places,..and we would come to the grocery sections, and there would be meat in packages, not hanging from the ceiling as in our neighborhood! - and the butchers had no dirty aprons, and everything smelled clean.....
We would have to be on our very best behavior, as Uncle Joe would peruse these plastic-wrapped corned beef specimens and analyze each one with a perfect eye, honed from years of practice choosing...corned beef.
It had to have just the right amount of fat, marbled in JUST the right way - so that when cooked, the fat would....suffuse was the word he used - suffuse into the meat, and the taste would be exquisite.
Amazingly enough, the meat in the fancy places never seemed to please Uncle Joe - it was always too fatty, or not quite fatty enough. Never once did he mention what I now suspect was the real reason for him never buying at a 'rich man's butcher; their meat was too expensive!
So we would leave the 'fancy pants places' and visit less ornate stores in the areas I now know are called middle-class. These establishments would be on nicer streets, and the butcher shops would have a mix of choices- but still, nothing good enough for Uncle Joe's discerning eye!
He would buy us all something to eat as we journeyed through the Boston of the 1940s, a post-war extravaganza of amazing excess and excitement. Sometimes it was 'that Italian food' pizza - most often, hot dogs, still the leader back then.....before Macdonald's made us all burger crazy!
And thus, by the end of the day, we would be tired, dirty as children get, and ready to go home....but there would be no corned beef!
Surprisingly enough, we would end up at our local butcher shop, McGinnty's- who- surprise again!- was also one of Uncle Joe's favorite drinking buddies!
By this time, Uncle Joe was saddened by the lack of fine corned beef, and would complain to McGinnty bitterly about the problem, which was about to result in a - shocking!- corned beef-less St. Patrick's Day!
Suddenly, McGinnty would remember that he had just gotten in a new shipment - his last from some special place that had an amazing year for corned beef! As a child I remembered believing that corned beef grew better in some places, like a crop of better apples....and we would all be ushered into the meat locker where this incredible corned beef was being stored, never having been seen by human eyes other than McGinnty's or....now...us!
It was a solemn event, McGinnty would open the boxes slowly and show us the meat.....running his thick fingers along the fat lines.
Uncle Joe would look, and his eyes would widen in appreciation.....(Irish accent) 'And that, my dear family, is what good corned beef is supposed to look like, - we'll take it!'
McGinnty would look surprised, (as McGinnty, sounds almost the same as Uncle Joe) 'But Joe my dear friend, I haven't even told you the price!'
(As Joe) 'That's all right, my friend, I trust you to be fair.......wrap it up!
(Back to himself) And we would cheer as if the Red Sox had won the World Series - the elusive corned beef had been found!
And it was - every year - dubbed the most delicious corned beef EVER in the history of the world!
(He sighs, remembering.)
I was much older before I realized that the corned beef hunts were elaborately designed adventures - that Uncle Joe and McGinnty had the corned beef ready for us, that it had been paid for and the purpose of those marvelous days was never really that much about corned beef at all.
Oh, yes, it was ostensibly the reason, but it also meant that once a year we would get to look at things we never got to see. (Remembering) Clothing that was priced higher than a month's wages, objects for the home that we marveled at- washing machines, refrigerators....all manner of kitchen objects...people who were dressed well, and cars and houses that looked nice on the outside, not just on the inside.
And, combined with the exposure to other worlds, was the discovery that all these amazing places .......did not have anything better than what we could get in our very own backyard.
(Thoughtful) These were lessons in life that I think about now.
(Laughs) And, until I became a parent, I never realized that the Corned Beef Hunt day gave my mother and father a much needed vacation!
(He now lifts his hand - with a fork in it- and is there something on the fork?)
So, today, on this special day, at age 78, I no longer can drink more than coffee, and only one cup of that! - but I can still lift a bite of corned beef to make a toast in honor of my Uncle Joe – may he rest in peace!.....to this bar, where he spent so many happy hours, and to everyone - on St. Patrick's Day, the whole world can be Irish!
(He turns to leave, looks back at the audience.)
Pretty good for a man in his 70s?
Think I look very young for my age? This is me on the inside - on St. Patrick's Day - everyone is young!
(He walks off, whistling 'Wearing of the Green'.)
The end- have a delicious day!
Janet S. Tiger 858-27
Member Dramatists Guild since 1983
Swedenborg Hall 2006-8