Friday, March 17, 2017

I'm not Irish

I'm seeing more St. Patrick's Day references in my reading list than usual, so this may be a good time to explain the effects of my not being Irish. Not even a little bit, unless something really surprising comes up when I take the genetic spit test.

B., however, has some Irish (though she's mostly German), and that came up when we were discussing what to have for dinner tonight. She's Catholic, and it's a Friday in Lent, so nothing with meat, and I won't have time today to make a complex dish. But the Irish in her didn't take to the idea of tofu or polenta on St. Patrick's, so I said all right, I'll roast her some tiny potatoes. She likes that, and there's nothing more Irish than potatoes.

I, however, do not eat potatoes. At all. I'll have to have something else. Which is OK, but it gives me the opportunity to bring up a natural phenomenon in the form of a rule of thumb (that is, it's not precisely true, but it works as a generalization) that applies only to me.

[My liking of a culture's food] + [My liking of that culture's music] = [constant]

That is to say, the more I like the one, the less I like the other.

The two extremes of this are Irish and Cajun/Creole. Potato is, I'm reliably told, entirely ubiquitous in Ireland, and not eating it would be a real burden there. (I've never been.) On the other hand, I adore Irish folk music. It is my favorite folk music in all the world. I can listen to it endlessly. Do you know a 1970s group called the Bothy Band? Gee, I'd like to be able to sing like that. I even like a lot of ersatz Irish music, like Enya and the stuff from Riverdance.

At the other end, I love Creole and especially Cajun food. I have visited Louisiana four times in my life, and each time my primary goal was to eat. There's nowhere else I've taken entire trips to for that purpose. But I don't like their music. 95% of jazz does nothing for me; zydeco doesn't appeal either.

That applies across the board. What's my favorite European cuisine? Italian. (Special virtue: it eschews potato.) But what's the biggest hole in my appreciation of classical music? Italian opera. Just don't care for it. My Italian music canon consists of Gabrieli canzonas, Rossini overtures (just the overtures), and Respighi suites and tone poems, not a representative selection.

Even in the rest of the world. I eat Asian food of almost all kinds, except Japanese which I have to treat with great caution. But Japanese composers have written by far the finest Western classical music in all of Asia, really great stuff.

What other food is Irish? I think mostly of boiled meat, a method of cooking it that doesn't much appeal to me; it's usually served inextricably mixed with potato (e.g. Irish stew), and is out on a Friday in Lent anyway. Irish-Americans traditionally eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's, though I dunno what they'll do today (descendants of Ulster Protestants in this country tend not to consider themselves culturally Irish), and the dish's claim to be Irish and not just Irish-American is dubious. Jews also eat corned beef, but as a Jew I have to say that I find Irish corned beef to be exceedingly goyische. I think they boil it.

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