Skip to content

What not to do on St. Patricks Day.

March 14, 2011

Two months ago, we attended the soft opening of a new Irish pub in Arlington. A much anticipated opening by the Irish American community in the DC area, the pub took a long time to assemble due to the fact that the owners imported much of the furniture and bar fixtures from Ireland. I was excited that that the new pub was in walking distance, and even more that it was a gastropub, meaning it focused on cuisine as well– which reflects the modern Irish trend. Unfortunately, many people took this as a cue to have a mini-St. Patrick’s day celebration. Those who are close to me know that I am not a huge fan of the holiday, and I am even less of a fan of the drinks that accompany the occasion. However, people who don‘t know me act shocked, “But I thought you were Irish?!?! You have to love this day” Yes, I am Irish, Republic-passport-carrying Irish. My Nana immigrated from Sligo at the age of sixteen, and I still have relatives, whom I visit every few years, that live in her hometown. My Nana left on the eve of independence, an extremely difficult time to be in Ireland. My Nana was very Irish, but not in a single sense that Americans understand what it means to be Irish. Because in America, what means to be Irish is to be a drunk leprachaun, and an offensive one at that. St. Patrick’s day, and all its trappings of green shirts, crowded bars, and general excuses to get drunk-ridiculousness, in America spits in the face of the Irish.

Daniel O'Connell statue riddled with bullets during the Easter Rising, Dublin, Ireland

After hearing my feelings, and traveling to meet my family, AAM understands why I tense up. So, he knew I would laugh when he told me a story he overheard while he was waiting to pay our tab at Beckett’s. A man sitting next to us described what every bartender in America should do if someone orders a  “Car Bomb” or a “Black and Tan.”  A bartender at Daniel O’Connell’s in Old Town, a bar we love that hires mostly Irish bartenders, threw a drink in the face of a customer who ordered a “Black and Tan.”

The most ironic, quintessentially anti-Irish moment is the ordering of the drink “Black and Tan.” Organized by Churchill, after the famous Easter Rising of 1916 and World War I, the Black and Tans were a last ditch effort to tame the Irish revolutionaries. Nicknamed for their uniforms and behavior, they roamed the Irish country side and tortured, murdered, raped, and stole from the Irish. The best comparison I have heard was given to me by an Irish historian from Trinity, who described them as the British version of the Gestapo. Sent as military police, their goal was to break the Irish, and they did it through horrific means. Most of their violent acts were against suspected IRA members, which to a Black and Tan meant anyone who was Irish. If they didn’t murder them in front of family, they tortured the Irish through cutting off body parts such as tongues, fingers, and noses. In a more public manner, the Black and Tans famously opened fire on a Gaelic Football match, killing 12 innocent people (popularly commemorated by U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday). The brutality of the Black and Tans galvanized the Irish into a larger revolutionary cause, which helped the IRA fight for Irish independence.

For understandable reasons, you won’t hear someone in the Irish Republic order a Black and Tan or a car bomb these days. What will you hear? That their economy tanked. That yet again, the system failed them. That to be Irish is to deal with a sort of luck that Americans don’t really understand. Want to do something Irish this Saint Patrick’s Day?

I would say read something Irish, but everyone does that. I will loosely quote AAM: “I never understand why they hang pictures of Wilde, Shaw, and Beckett so prominently in American Irish pubs, the revolutionaries had the really interesting stories.”

A picture from the Salmon Weir Bridge in Galway, where my maiden name originates

For more information on the Black and Tans, this article in the Independent is

actually well researched. Additionally, I HIGHLY recommend seeing the movie The Wind that Shakes the Barley— which is a FANTASTIC movie about that period in Irish history.

Try cooking my Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie or Colcannon for St. Patrick’s Day.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2011 8:26 pm

    I wish I had read your post before my trip to Ireland. Very well written.

    Hear is my take on the Black and Tan:

    • March 17, 2011 9:16 am

      Oh no! I read your story, and yes, neither drink is considered good to order. What was worse was that you were doing it in the Gaeltacht (Gaelic country), where the Black and Tans were particularly brutal because they saw Gaelic as being subversive.

  2. Emer permalink
    August 28, 2011 2:17 am

    Hey Guys

    An Irish person living in Vancouver here- I would recommend Dubliner cheese toasted on brown bread… or leave it out until it’s at room temperature and enjoy on crackers. It’s a delicious cheese…Cashel blue cheese is also excellent.

    A novel set at the same time as the Wind that shakes the Barley is Troubles by JG Farell. It is written about the Irish War of Independence and is quietly sad but amusing. The author wrote other novels set in different now ex-British colonies.

    This recipe for Porter Cake is authentic and very good:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: