My Grandmother Madge, St Patrick’s Day, and Colcannon


I often think of my maternal grandmother, Madge, particularly around this time of year. She was born in London, England within a few years of her parents emigrating from Dublin, Ireland. As such, on ‘paper’ she was 100% English, yet she never forgot that the blood that coursed through her veins was pure Irish. In fact, her maiden name was Deegan, which explains why that is my first name. As we embark upon yet another St. Patrick’s Day – or as it has become, St. Patrick’s Week – I am often reminded of my grandmother’s fondness for the day.

… she was not one to take in the ‘everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day’ malarkey. I don’t imagine she ever attended a St. Paddy’s Day parade in her life

In Montreal, after two years without a parade due to COVID19, once again we will have the wearing of the green next Sunday, I hope they remember to paint the green line down the street. However, Madge was not one to stand by the ‘everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day’ malarkey. I don’t imagine she ever attended a St. Paddy’s Day parade in her life (perhaps the only time her husband, my grandfather, was correct in his ‘every drunk in the city will be there‘ adage), nor would she have been caught dead wearing green dollar store trinkets, had they existed then. No, for Madge it was all about the food.

Growing up, my family lived just down the street from my grandparents’ place, making Sunday dinners a common, if not weekly, occasion. But when March 17th rolled around the day, regardless of whether it fell on a weekday, was marked with a large feast. When we arrived after school or work, the dining room table would be festooned with various shades of green, with a centrepiece that included shamrock (or a reasonable facsimile). Roasts and veggies of all sorts would be at one’s disposal (although as Irish Catholics, no carrots were allowed on that day, they being orange!). My aunt, who lived with my grandparents, would arrive from work with a special store-bought St. Paddy’s Day cake for dessert. And yes, there might even be a bit of the gargle available, but never to excess – a couple of beers for my grandfather and maybe a glass or two of Irish Mist for Madge and the others.

… although as Irish Catholics, no carrots were allowed on that day, they being orange!

I thought I’d try my hand at an Irish traditional meal to mark the start of the week; Irish Stew on a bed of Colconnan, a potato, bacon, and cabbage concoction. I did the stew in a slow cooker and the Colcannon the old-fashioned stove-top way. I like to think I’m ecumenical at heart, so my dish included carrots! I must admit, I think even Madge would have been pleased with the outcome!

Published by DCMontreal

DCMontreal - Deegan Charles Stubbs - is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

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