American- Irish- Italians: a beautiful marriage of two cultures with deep roots starting during the industrial revolution era in the United States. Both sets of immigrants arrived on the shores of the US prepared for a new life in a new country at the end of the 19th century. Both the Irish and Italians made up a large percentage of immigrants who came to the United States, settling into large cities, learning new skills and quickly finding better jobs than they had back home. Although these people spoke different languages, it wasn’t before long that these two groups of hardworking people begun to intermingle and create diversity among immigrant cities forming a unique niche culture of Irish Italians!
In hindsight, it’s easy for us to look back and see the union of these two predominantly Catholic cultures as an inevitable result. However, it’s not all that straight-forward when considering how difficult it was for many first generation immigrants to branch out from beyond the comforts of ‘home’ and everything they knew. After only a couple generations, the coming together between young Irish and Italian people was more and more prevalent, and even celebrated. In fact, in 2015, the movie Brooklyn was released; a love story featuring a young immigrant Irish nurse who falls in love with a young Italian plumber in New York. Set in the 1950s, this film is a tribute to the numerous real-life stories that create the beautiful and unique culture of diversity that we have in this country, and especially that of Irish Italian Americans.
Ironically, there has been a long-lived rumor that St. Patrick, of St. Patrick’s Day (known as an Irish holiday) is actually Italian, especially for those living in Massachusetts. However, this folklore claim isn’t completely unfounded. It’s been said that St. Patrick was born in 432 AD to Calpurnius and Conchessa, two high status Romans, and died in Ireland around 460AD. While he was described as a ‘Roman’, it doesn’t necessarily secure the fact that he was an Italian since the concept of that nationality didn’t exist until the 1800s. So, what’s the verdict? It’s unlikely he was Italian as we know of the culture today, but the story remains interesting and people like to have a little fun with the debate and since he was a missionary in Ireland, he has become a national icon. To add to the irony, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t actually celebrated in Ireland! It’s a holiday predominantly celebrated in America, and certainly not only by the Irish. One of the best things about this holiday is the notion that ‘everyone can be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day’. This lovely inclusive idea gives way to so many fun ideas and ways to celebrate together with friends, family and neighbors.
Naturally, food is of great cultural importance to Irish Italians, so what better time to celebrate this delicious union than on St. Patrick’s Day? When it comes down to it, the marriage of these two cuisines just makes logical sense. While hearty, Irish food tends to lack the use of fresh green vegetables, which are abundant in Italian cooking. Putting these two ideas together, you can create some pretty amazing dishes, which is what Irish Italian families have been doing for decades.
Some great fusion ideas:
• Italian “Bangers & Mash”: Tender potatoes cooked with peppers, onion, garlic, mushrooms and Italian sausage in olive oil and red wine.
• Italian Potato Boats: Red potatoes with Dubliner cheddar cheese, pepper, chives, olive oil mashed together and scooped back into their skins.
• Irish Deviled Eggs: Mix a batch of pesto into your usual deviled egg recipe for green goodness!
One of the earliest popular fusion dishes hails from the 1930s and was featured in various “ladies journals” that became popular among housewives. Many have grown up on this dish and have fond memories that will bring them back to their youth when they smell that delicious aroma from the kitchen. This is a wonderful meal to serve for St. Patrick’s Day this year and celebrate an Irish holiday, the Italian way!
Irish Italian Spaghetti
• ¼ ground beef
• 1 can mushroom soup
• 1 can tomato soup
• Chopped yellow onion
• 1 tsp pepper
• 1 tsp chili powder
• 8 oz spaghetti
• 1 cup parmesan cheese
This dish is super easy and can be prepared in just under an hour.
Chop onion and simmer in oiled pot with beef. Once browned, add in both soups and spices. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. In the meantime, cook spaghetti until al dente. Once completed, add spaghetti into the sauce and half the cup of cheese. Use the other half cup of parmesan to top each dish. This meal is great when served with fresh baked crostini and a nice big garden salad.
No matter how you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we hope that it’s eventful and full of delicious food and drinks. Come by and pick up any special St. Patty’s items you may need, especially when it comes to shamrock-inspired cookies and cakes and imported beer!