Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saturday was spent cleaning up from a nasty Nor’easter that gave New England a bit of everything, ending up with torrents of rain that flooded streets and highways whose storm drains were clogged by mounds of snow and sleet. I live halfway down a fairly significant hill-—my section of Roslindale being known as Clarendon Hills—-so I awoke to the sight of a river flowing down my street. After breakfast, I got out and began the big job of shoveling out the cement-heavy rain-drenched snow before the temperature dropped and everything froze solid.

It was St Patrick’s Day and when I got back inside I made tea and thought a bit about New York City’s parade for the first time since I was a kid. I grew up in the City and that parade was a part of my childhood, particularly as my family had moved to Queens from Manhattan just before I turned five, settling into an Irish-Catholic neighborhood.

TV coverage of the parade then had a policy of cutting quickly away every time a group or individual came down 5th Avenue with one of the many “England Get Out of Ireland” signs that were common then. It was done in the name of avoiding politics, but in my family it was taken as an endorsement of the English occupation. My English Grandmother (mother’s mother) was a staunch Imperialist—-the sun never set on HER Empire, even when the British government began slowly but surely withdrawing from (or being kicked out of) its many overseas possessions. She would proudly tell anyone within earshot that if it hadn’t been for England, there still wouldn’t be flush toilets in Dublin. That was a piece of historical information I wisely decided NOT to take into Resurrection-Ascension Catholic Grammar School, which was ruled by a strict order of Irish-American nuns.

The parade this year went on without the participation of New York State’s new, liberal Governor Elliot Spitzer. No statement was made, but it is widely assumed that Elliot elected to stay away because his strong support for gay rights that’s strongly at odds with the organizers’ ban on any openly gay persons or groups marching in the parade. There have been several court challenges to that ban, but it has held—-the parade is run as a private party, in effect, so the organizers are legally free to invite anyone--or exclude anyone—-they wish. In the last decade or so, this year’s Grand Marshall, former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, has retreated firmly into alliance with ultra-conservative Catholicism and the radical Evangelical Right, particularly on gay issues.

Anyway, bless Elliot; he’s made it one of his goals to introduce legislation establishing gay marriage in New York State within his first year in office, so the organizers probably wouldn’t have been too happy with him in any event.
It was different with New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay. She announced she would march in Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade this year in company with the Lord Mayor of the city who has no issue with gays, Irish or otherwise, a direct snub to the New York parade’s organizers. Ireland is on the verge of introducing gay marriage, also.

Here in Boston, epicenter of the Irish Immigration to America in the 19th century, there’s a parade but the big event has always been the St Paddy’s Day political breakfast and roast, this time held today, the 18th. Originally a face off between the old guard Boston Brahmins (the English-descended Yankees with the great names of Lodge, Endicott, Cabot, Lowell, Peabody, [Leverett] Saltonstall, etc.)
and the scrappy “upstart” Irish politicians who were demanding their piece of the American Pie, it very quickly turned into a hilarious “demilitarized zone” where a Cabot and a Fitzgerald or a [James Michael] Curley (two of the new great names) could meet and joke and begin to discover how they might learn how to govern the Commonwealth together.

But it’s a new time, and the focus of the breakfast has shifted in the last several decades. The name on the governor’s office door recently is likely to be Italian or Greek as well as WASP and we now have our first black governor, only the second ever in the nation. The underlying humor at the event—-and humorous it very definitely is--now has much to do with the efforts of the almost invisible Massachusetts Republican Party to field enough viable sacrificial lambs to run against the habitual triumphal march of Democratic candidates.


The house has been on the market for a week now and mobs of house hunters are managing to restrain themselves from interrupting my routine. The only people to see the place came last Sunday for the Open House. My realtor was surprised at this, particularly as we went into multiple listings on Monday.

I’m not surprised about yesterday, as the city was digging out from the storm. But I thought maybe today . . . I was advised that there would be a flurry of activity for a week or so right after it was listed, then things would relax for a bit and finally pick up again in the later Spring. Well, our flurry lasted two hours and then nothing. I'm working on not becoming nervous.

Not to be discouraged, I am continuing to process stuff in storage areas and will be doing some little paint jobs and other cosmetic things that should make a difference here and there. One thing I decided to do was to start eating down the contents of my deep freeze. I got it several years ago and have loved it—so much so that when I had to replace my refrigerator, I got a refrigerator-only model with no freezer in it.

I quickly came to appreciate this arrangement. I like to entertain and to have a cabinet big enough to take platters of prepared canapés, bowls of meats marinating, dessert items, bottles of wine and beer in addition to my regular fridge contents works for me very well. Fritz liked the way it worked so well that when his fridge diedhe also has a deep freezer), he got the same model--Sears Kenmore, if you’re curious.

So, all manner of soups and stews and blueberries we picked in the early fall and packages of turkey salvaged from the carcasses of Thanksgiving and Christmas roasts are getting taken out and used up. One big advantage of a deep freeze is that food keeps fresher much longer than in a refrigerator’s freezer, so all this stuff is pretty much in prime condition.

I’ve found over the years that my two great allies in using up leftovers are Herbes de Provence and Wye River Seasoning. The Provencal herb bouquet contains rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme and fennel; the best mixes have lavender flowers as well. They’re perfect for soups and stews and I love them in scrambled eggs and omelets as well. They can be a little pricey depending on where you buy them, but on the other hand, the flavor is so intense you don’t have to use all that much. I’m going to try them in home-made bread some time soon.

I first found Wye River Seasoning in Maryland about eight years ago during a reunion with a high school friend. The reunion didn’t go all that well but he cooked one night with this seasoning and I made sure to get a ten ounce tin before I left the area. It was developed as a complement to Maryland crab dishes—steamed crab, crab soup, etc. It’s very good in Bloody Marys, salad dressing, chili, eggs, stews of all kinds, and mixed into ground beef to make hamburgers. One of its great uses is to make dull food interesting. It contains salt, black pepper, celery seed, paprika, mustard flour, spices (undefined) and red pepper. It has a satisfying zing but isn’t so hot you can’t taste the food--something I hate.


The weather smiled yesterday afternoon, Fritz came down from New Hampshire and we had a nice dinner here at the house before leaving for Jordan Hall. The Prazak Quartet turned out to be four Czechs who got together in 1972, just out of the Prague Conservatory. Like many central-European musicians they’re very intense, very physical—they play with their whole bodies, and really lean into the bowing whether it’s a violin or a cello. I remember seeing the Vienna Philharmonic play and the first violins were undulating back and forth like a kelp forest in a current on the sea bed.

Slavic violin tone tends to be dryer and a little more gritty than western European musicians prefer, but it gives an exciting edge to the string sound and they proved themselves capable of a very warm and smooth tone when they played one movement of a Mozart quartet as an encore. Their reception from the audience was extremely enthusiastic,and deservedly so. Sadly, there was only half a house in attendance but we made up in enthusiasm for what we lacked in numbers.

You have totally turned me on: From talking about the Irish heritage and history, the seasonings and and Czech musicians and the bowing and strings.....I am just so into all of that! Thanks again for your enlightenment.
that was good reading; you always have good things to read/tell.
I'm sure the Lawrence Parade never compared with the New York one, though they both had the "England out of Ireland" signs.
I've never attended the Boston St. Paddy's Parade (Boston's biggest)...and I don't plan on it since they, like NYC, banned gays from marching.


I wouldn't worry too much about selling your house. The timing of your sale coincided with some pretty crappy weather. And people are less inclined to look when they're snow and slush around. I suspect by next week it'll be of more interest to folks.

I never heard about Ireland's consideration of legalizing gay marriage! That's great!
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