As a wee lad in Celbridge, Ireland, young Glenn ate beef. Not only did he eat beef, he ate mashed potatoes, ham, cabbage, and anything else his Nana placed in front of him at the cramped table around which only three children at a time could eat. His favorite though was her stew. While not a food-oriented child, Glenn ate every meal his Nana served because it made her so happy to watch him eat, and it gave Glenn pleasure to see the joy on her face. There’s no question Glenn thrived on pleasing his grandmother, but we’ve also heard tell of her cooking—especially her thick “homey stew made for the masses” with a flavor that lingers on the tongue and maybe even in dreams.
His grandparents’ home was the heart of the family—dogs in the yard, an aviary full of birds. Grandad was “up in everyone’s business and havin’ a laugh with everyone.” Because he knew all that went on in the family, Grandad would pull young Glenn aside after trouble at school and tell him next time, “Just don’t get caught.” Glenn’s eyes shine as he reflects back.
In his grandparents’ home, Glenn felt safe.
As it does, life progressed, young Glenn sprouted, became a man and travelled to New York where he met Marita. The two fell right into step and never lost pace. She even moved back to Ireland with him for “18 long, long months.” The Emerald Isle did not exactly live up to her imagination. Growing up, she’d been drawn to Irish culture and music, and the move proved an opportunity to legitimize her connection. Only she couldn’t have imagined how the moisture would seep below each layer of clothing, how the sun’s shyness would darken her mood. It took moving back to the States, back near family and friends for Marita to make sense of Ireland.
The two travel back every few years, and Glenn’s family visits them on occasion, which helps. But the visits are few and rare. Marita knows it’s not easy to be so far from home and family, so she looks to their own kitchen in which they make Irish-American stew to fill the gap. “Glenn’s home is so far away, this stew is one way to connect with it.” Once a year, on St. Paddy’s day, Glenn and Marita make a huge pot of the stew loaded with butter, beef and beer— Guinness of course, which brings them closer to home. As Glenn says, “The stew brings me back to my grandmother’s kitchen.” And out of that pot sprung their very own tradition.
Stay tuned for next week’s post about Marita and Glenn’s new tradition—which includes an American birthday, a loaded table and Guinness, of course!