The best way to understand another’s culture is through their stomach. From traditional meals to street food, there can be an abundance of different things to nibble on or completely dive into. I love being invited over for a meal. I am lucky to have such a diverse circle of friends that I get to explore my friends’ upbringings, traditions, or their palettes through the food they share with me. Recently, my friend, Jetta, and I were talking about holidays and their cultural significance. This conversation took place in March and I brought up St. Patrick’s Day. Jetta’s mom is from the UK, and she explained to me how traditionally on St. Patrick’s Day her mom would make corned beef and cabbage. I had never tried corned beef and cabbage and always wondered how it tasted. I immediately asked her if she knew how to make the dish. Jetta was a pro. She invited me for dinner for a traditional Irish dish. I was looking forward to it immensely.
I love food. I have found that food, sometimes alone, but best when accompanied by others, always tastes better with great people. Jetta and I had been friends for a while now, but this was my first time trying her food. I made sure to arrive with an appetite. Before arriving, I stopped by the liquor store and bought a bottle of Jameson and a six of Guinness Extra Stout. I felt that pair was necessary. I arrive with the alcohol, and as she sees me squealed, “You nailed it!”. We rushed into the kitchen and in the crockpot, I found corned beef and cabbage. It wasn’t what I expected. Inside, I see beef sprinkled with all colors of peppercorns, thickly cut and peeled carrots, hearty chunks of potatoes, and layers of leafy cabbage. It smelled utterly delicious.
I opened a couple of beers, poured two glasses of Irish whiskey, and sat to enjoy my St. Patrick’s Day meal. Jetta and I talk about our days and her two sons join us for dinner. They explain they look forward to this dinner every year and that one of their cousins’ favorite dishes is corned beef and cabbage—I understood the lore of it. At mid-meal, I giggle to myself and explain that this meal was not what I expected. Jetta asked what I expected. I thought corned beef involved corn in some way. I thought corned beef had to do with the diet they had, in this case, cornmeal, corn kernels, etc. We all laughed, I was looking forward to some sort of sense of corn in my meal; it was never found. When we finished dinner, the boys excused themselves, and Jetta and I went to her living room and played video games on her mini NES. I never knew someone could be so good at Galaga.
Midnight approached and it was time for my farewell. I thanked Jetta for the meal and her great hospitality. With a parched mouth, I sat in my car and waited for my car to warm up. Corned beef and cabbage are ridiculously salty. No one told me about that either. My goal when arriving home was guzzling two glasses of water.
By Derrek G
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