Thursday, March 17, 2011

Luck O' the Irish

Thought for the day: Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit.  R.E. Shay

Seems like everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day, doesn't it? Doesn't matter a shamrock what their actual lineage is, either; why, 'tis a fine day indeed for wearing that favorite green shirt, and for pinning on a "Kiss Me; I'm Irish" button. For many, today's the day for gobbling corned beef, swilling green beer, and acting the happy fool, while toasting the luck of the Irish.

Ahhh, luck. There's an old proverb that says, Luck is the idol of the idle. Interesting thought. It's nice to pretend that we can just sit on our posteriors and simply wait for all things wonderful to fall into our laps, as though success were a bus, and all we have to do is climb on board when it finally appears. Or maybe it's a ship loaded with riches, and all we have to do is wait at the right dock when it sails into harbor?

Earl Wilson said, "Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure." 

Ah, HA!

And there we have it, another kind of wearing the green altogether. It's envy, that insidious feeling that evokes resentment when a fellow writer finds success, and even worse, that shamelessly insults and diminishes that writer's success by chalking it up to "luck", without regard to the sweat equity that writer put into it. And boy, watch out if we decide that other writer didn't put in as much effort as WE have.

But I suppose that kind of reaction is somewhat understandable. A Bible story I always had trouble with is the one about the workers who come in at the eleventh hour, and receive the same wages as the workers who'd been slaving in the hot sun for the entire day. Even as a young child, I wanted to know why the workers weren't paid according to the number of hours they worked. How could it be fair to the ones who'd worked all day if the newcomers made the same wages?

So, how is a writer who's worked at it for years and years to feel when someone writes a book purely on a lark, and ends up at the top of the best seller list? Without putting in the anything like the same amount of work, seemingly without putting in any work at all? He makes it look so easy. (At least those workers in the Bible story worked for an hour!)

OK, granted, it does happen that way sometimes. (Especially if you happen to be a celebrity.)

But MOST of the time, when a writer finds success, it didn't just fall into his lap. Like Ray Kroc said, "Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get." Those writers MAKE their own luck. They write, and they write, and they write some more, and they NEVER ever give up. It takes talent, yes, but it also takes a ton of determination.

"I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." That's what Thomas Jefferson had to say about the matter. And I think he's right. And I also think that any time one of our fellow writers finds success, whether that be in finding an agent, selling a book, or making it to the Oprah Winfrey show, we should all rejoice. We should toast their success, and share in their joy, and then, we should get back to work.

For this day, though, I'll grant ye the luck of the Irish. (As Susan O'Swiderksi, I can do that!)

Are you planning to have corned beef and cabbage to celebrate the day? It's too late for you to try your hand at this recipe this year, but you might want to give it a whirl next year. It isn't that much work, and I guarantee you, it'll be the best corned beef you ever ate. There are no nitrites in this, so the meat won't turn that unnatural red color, but it is gooooooooood.

For the salt and spice mix, you'll need 1 1/3 cups of Kosher (or coarse) salt, 3 T sugar, 1 T cracked peppercorns, 2 t allspice, 2 t thyme, 1 t sage, 1 t paprika, 1 large bay leaf, and 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Cut of meat - brisket, chuck, eye round roast, or bottom round, about 4-5 pounds

To Cure- Trim excess fat. Blend salt and spices, and rub the mixture into the meat. Liberally. Place meat into a large plastic bag and toss in the remaining salt/spice mixture. If you'd like, you can add a sliced onion and sliced carrot, too. Squeeze out as much air as you can, and then seal the bag. Put it into a a large bowl, cover it with a plate or pan, and weigh it down. (Put something on top of it that's heavy enough to keep the plate firmly pressed against the meat.) Place in the bottom of your fridge. Turn and knead the bag at least once a day until the curing process is completed. You should cure for at least two weeks, and up to a full month.

After curing: Wash the meat in cold water, and then soak it in a large bowl of cold water for about 24 hours to get rid of excess salt. If you'd like, you can tie it with butcher's twine, but it isn't necessary.

To Cook: Put meat in a large pot, and cover with water. Add an onion stuck with four cloves, a large carrot, and two celery stalks. Bring to a simmer, and skim off the scum for several minutes. (And I mean "scum" in the nicest way ...) Cover, leaving lid askew to allow for circulation, and simmer for 3- 3 1/2 hours, or until the meat is deliciously fork tender. Enjoy!

 Until next time, bless your little Irish heart, and every other Irish part.


  1. This IS a helpful post. Well, if you cook. Which I tend to avoid. But I can intuit that it WOULD be helpful if I did cook. ;)

  2. You are too funny, Linda. But technically, "corning" isn't "cooking." And, throwing a chunk of meat into a pot to simmer isn't much in the way of "cooking," either. Then again, going to the corner pub and sitting down to enjoy a plate of corned beef and cabbage, with or without the green beer, might be more to your liking. Thanks for leaving a post here on this "most underrated post," dear lady.

  3. Visiting your most underrated post...

    I actually try to make this one (part Irish) from time to time, so this recipe will come in handy.

  4. Hey, Florida. Thanks for taking pity on this poor post. I hope you do try the recipe. Guaranteed to please!