Beware the Ides of March - Country Cousin

Shirley Prudhomme

Get ready. Spring is on its way. Calendar says so! Official arrival in TIMESLand is scheduled for 4:24 p.m. on Monday, March 20.  Pack those snowshoes away, and get out your sunscreen. If Spring arrives, Summer cannot be far behind!

Or can it?
Maybe we shouldn’t pack away our gloves and snow shovels just yet.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting some really nice days, but that snow just keeps coming, ferocious sometimes, gentle sometimes. Wonder how deep it would be by now if it hadn’t melted in between?

Was beginning to feel a bit picked on personally. Drove home from work in nearly blinding snow during three different sieges of snow in the past week, and then it stopped as soon as I got in the driveway and turned off the engine. Waiting an hour would have made the drive home a whole lot better, but who knew? 

We survived the start of Daylight Savings Time once again. That Spring forward is really a giant leap when we night owls are deprived of a precious hour of sleep in the morning. Given enough coffee, we’ll get over it. Someday.

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on Friday, March 17 so lots of fun things are going on all around TIMESLand.

Thousands of Irishmen and their wannabe friends are preparing to celebrate this weekend. It’s only once every seven years or so that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, and Green beer time can last the entire weekend.

Have to wonder? Have I tamed a bit, or is St. Patrick’s Day not as wild as it used to be?

By the way, the carousing done in honor of St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition that started on the American continent, not in Ireland. There it was (and supposedly still is) more of a religious holiday than an excuse for carousing.

The shamrock has become the internationally recognized symbol of Ireland.

But just what is a shamrock, and why is it so important to the Irish?

Since Irishmen are reputed to seldom agree about anything it is hardly surprising that they also cannot agree on exactly what a shamrock is, except that is a sort of clover that has three leaves.

St. Patrick is believed to have used the shamrock - three leaves on one stem - to illustrate the three persons in one God concept - Father, Son and Holy Ghost - he Blessed Trinity.

The word “shamrock” derives from the Irish word, “seamrog”, which translates to “little clover” or “young clover”. Rather vague, considering that there are many kinds of clovers — and even more plants that look like them to the layman.

“Shamrock” was first clearly used as a plant name by English herbalist John Gerard in 1596 when he wrote that meadow trefoils are called Shamrockes.

Results of a survey conducted at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, in 1988 closely matched those of a similar poll in 1893. Four varieties of clovers were identified by Irishmen as shamrocks. Most popular were the lesser trefoil, 46%; white clover, 35%, followed by black medick, 7%, and red clover, 4%.

Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella, in Irish seamsog) sometimes claims to be a shamrock, but that pretense was officially rejected as long ago as 1830!

If you want to be sure you own a real shamrock you’ll probably have to buy a bunch of varieties. One of them should be right. Or simply pick out one you like and stand by it. It’s your shamrock, after all.

Celtic dominance once extended across Ireland and much of Western Europe. It was the Druids (Celtic priests) who elevated four leaf clovers to the status of charms, allegedly potent against malevolent spirits. Their status as Celtic charms is the origin of the modern belief in their power to bestow good luck. (That and the fact they’re hard to find.)

The leaves of four leaf clovers are sometimes said to stand for faith, hope, love, and luck.

Clovers in general were considered good luck symbols by ancient peoples of Ireland. Early Celts in Wales particularly revered the white clover, and used it as a charm against evil spirits.

Some of the cousins used to have a patch of 4-leaf clovers growing among other clovers on their lawn. We usually would find one or two there. We didn’t know anything about evil spirits, but we sort of believed in the luck part. Ginny nearly always found hers first and got more than anybody. She did grow up to have a good life, for a while at least, but looking back I can’t say she was any luckier than the rest of us. So maybe the clovers didn’t help.

On average there are said to be 10,000 three leaf clovers for every true four leaf clover. Can’t say myself. Never counted.

What I’ve always liked best about my favorite Irish friends is their wonderful sense of humor. Somehow professional Irishmen have become experts at making fun of themselves. When other folks tell the same stories they never quite come off quite as funny. But we can try, right?

Here’s one my dear departed old friend Murph used to tell, as I remember it. He had a whole lot more, and shared them often. Rest well, Jim.

Now the story.

Padraic Flaherty came home drunk every evening toward ten. Now, the Missus was never too happy about it, so one night she puts on a red devil costume and hides in the cemetery at just the right time. She figures to scare the beejeezus out of him. As poor Pat wanders by, up from behind a tombstone she jumps, screaming, “Padraic Sean Flaherty, sure if ye don’t give up yer drinkin’ it’s to Hell I’ll take ye!’”

Pat looks hard, staggers back and demands, “Who the hell ARE you?”

The Missus replies, “I’m the divil yea damned old fool.”

Flaherty’s happy. “Demmed glad to meet you sir, I’m married to yer sister these many years. An’ begorrah if she don’t look jist loike ye! And sound loike ye too!”

Most everyone today has heard the story of Paddy, the Irishman who left the Emerald Isles to find his fortune in America. His two brothers stayed behind, and before he left they made a pact. Whenever they’d go to a bar they’d order three beers - one for each of the brothers, and drink by taking a sip from each until all three were gone.

The bartender couldn’t understand why Paddy would do this, since freshly drawn beers - all cold and frothy - are so much better.

So Paddy explained, it was one beer for him, and one for each of his brothers, so they could drink together.

Well, this went on for years, until one day Paddy only ordered two beers. One of his brothers had died. The bartender offered his deepest sympathy, and even bought a beer for Paddy and his remaining brother.

Recently heard a new twist on this story. A big old Texan left the ranch to live in New York City with his new wife. He and his two brothers made the same sort of agreement that Paddy had made with his brothers, and this unusual way of enjoying the evening brews drew the same questions from the bartender, and the same explanation from Tex. One beer for him, and one for each of his two brothers, and drink a sip o a glug from each in turn.

Then a day came when he only ordered two beers.

Bartender assumed the worst, and extended his deepest sympathy.

“Oh, no,” Tex chuckled. “Nobody died. My wife got religion. Told me if I wanted to stay married to her I had to quit drinking, so  I did. But my two brothers didn’t.”

Even to those of us who know little or nothing about ides, that has sort of an ominous sound. Probably because it’s the only Shakespeare line many of us will ever know except for “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” and reminds us of High School English classes that were not always fun.

Anyway, the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s play “Julius Ceasar” warned the emperor to beware the ides of March, and sure enough he was stabbed to death on March 15, 44 B.C. The “ides” actually were just a term to describe mid-month in March, May, July, and October. The “ides” started as a way to designate the full moon on the original calendar, but then everything got out of whack. March 15 marked the first full moon of the new year on the oldest of the Roman calendars.


In regard to being wary of those Ides of March, it is a fact that the ancient Romans based their calendar on pretty much the same year we do, and they knew the Earth revolves around the Sun, and the Moon around the Earth. Don’t understand why people, supposedly the most learned ones, were so sure later that the Sun revolves around the Earth that they killed heretics - often horrifically - for believing otherwise.

Kind of scary that today the “experts” also are often very sure about things that simply aren’t so, but we’re supposed to believe them anyway. Today’s intellectual elites probably won’t be killing anyone for their heretical beliefs, but our society in fact already is imprisoning some of them, and persecuting others. Our political and intellectual leaders are becoming so dictatorial and polarized that meaningful dialog and debate, civilized exchange of thoughts, is becoming extinct, especially on college campuses, where it ought to be most encouraged.

The young people who will be the leaders of our world tomorrow far too often are not being educated, they are being brainwashed, especially those who attend the most elite of our colleges.

Students should be taught how to think, not what to think. They should learn how to get the facts, weight the validity and importance, and then form an opinion.

Today, all too often, we’re expected to get into as discussion with the politically correct opinion, and then try to gather facts (or fiction) to support it.

It would help greatly if high schools would once again have debate classes, and debate teams so by the time the best and brightest of their students got to college they would have the critical thinking skills that are so badly needed if our great American dream of freedom and opportunity is to survive.

That most American of beverages, Coca Cola, was first produced 120 years ago, back in 1886. The cola drinks were under fire a few years ago as being bad for the teeth, bad for the complexion, bad for digestion, and bad for the waistline. But back when the first bottle was brewed up by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton, it was sold in drugstores as a headache remedy.

Actually, the first Coca Cola contained cocaine. Pemberton had wanted to develop a version of the coca wines (basically cola with alcohol and cocaine) that were in vogue at the time. In 1886, Atlanta passed prohibition laws that forced beverage manufacturers to produce non-alcoholic versions of their drinks, and by the end of the year Pemberton had a recipe that was unique and tailored to customers’ tastes. The original recipe is still locked in a vault in Atlanta. Cocaine was removed from Coke in 1903.

Wonder if anyone became addicted to cocaine from drinking that early Coca Cola? And did they complain when the recipe was changed?

Other minor adjustments to the recipe for Coca Cola have been made in the past century or so, but  the recipe today is very much as it was in the beginning, and Coca Cola remains the most popular non-alcoholic beverage on the market.

By the way, pharmacists also developed the recipes for Pepsi-Cola, which came along in 1898, and Dr. Pepper, which was introduced in 1904.

Wonder who first thought of pouring those “medicinal drinks” over ice cubes? And adding liquor?


The recipe is authentic but the name isn’t. The Guinness serves the same purpose as wine in French cooking. It provides the acid and moisture that helps tenderize meat when cooked long and slowly. A very Irish and very delicious sort of stew. Best served with plain boiled potatoes with Brussels Sprouts or green beans on the side. Makes four servings. Incidentally, this is a good alternative to Corned Beef for those on a low sodium diet who want a special St. Patrick’s Day meal anyway. You might start a new tradition.
2 1/2 pounds beef shin or stew meat
2 large onions

6 medium carrots
2 tablespoons seasoned flour
2 tablespoons beef drippings or other fat
1/2 cup dry cider
1 cup Guinness
Water as needed
Parsley sprigs for garnish
Cut the beef into chunks. Peel and slice the onions and carrots. Put the flour in a large plastic bag with as much salt and pepper as you like. Toss the beef in the flour and brown quickly in hot fat. Remove the beef and fry the onions gently until transparent. Return the beef and add the carrots and the Guinness and enough water to barely cover the meat. Bring just to boiling, then reduce heat to a very gentle simmer. Cover closely and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. (Or transfer to a slow cooker and cook for perhaps 6 hours.) Check that kettle does not dry out, adding more liquid if necessary. Before serving garnish with chopped parsley and decorate plates with parsley sprigs.

Makes two servings. If made with real lobster this is too expensive for anyone but a really rich real Irishman. The rest of us can suffer with mock lobster flakes. It’s still good. And still very, very rich. Wonderful with asparagus on the side,

2 pounds lobster
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Irish whiskey
1/2 cup whipping cream
salt and pepper
Baking powder biscuits
Toss the lobster meat in foaming butter over a medium heat for a few minutes until cooked. (Even less time if you’re using the lobster flakes.) Take care that the butter does not burn. Add the whiskey and when it has heated up set light to it. Pour in the cream, heat through and season. Serve over the biscuits. Or get unauthentic and toss with angel hair pasta.

Remember the little girl who sat eating her curds and whey? She must have been Irish, because this version of a favorite old-time Irish dessert does indeed use curds and whey. Sort of. You can make as a pie in a ready-made frozen pie crust or use your own favorite sweet shortcrust pastry to line an 8” or 9” tart tin, the kind with a removable bottom.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon plain flour, heaping
rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
8 ounces cottage cheese, sieved
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Put a cookie sheet in to heat. Prepare the crust. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks, flour, lemon rind, lemon juice and sieved cottage cheese. Or mix in food processor. Spoon into pie shell or tart pan. Mix topping ingredients together and spread on top of the curd filling. Place the pie tin on the warmed baking sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour or until the top is lightly browned and slightly firm. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve cool but not chilled.

Ran this recipe two years ago, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t know if this is ethnic Irish or not, but it is an easy candy made with Bailey’s Irish Cream. That pretty much speaks for itself if you’ve ever tasted Bailey’s. It’s one of the few drinks that might make getting a hangover worth the trouble. This recipe makes about five dozen truffles so the amount of alcohol shouldn’t create a problem for anyone, except possibly an extremely sensitive alcoholic. Let the other adults sample a few on St. Patrick’s Day, then wrap the rest individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for three weeks, when you can fill Easter baskets intended for adults.
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
Chopped nuts, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, chocolate sprinkles, flaked coconut, green tinted if you wish.
Stir cream, butter and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a full boil over medium heat. Remove from heat at once. Add chocolate and stir until completely melted. Stir in the Bailey’s. Chill overnight or until firm. Shape into balls and roll in your choice of the chopped nuts, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, chocolate sprinkles, flaked coconut, green tinted if you wish.

The Country Cousin
Thought for the week: A prayer for you, on St. Patrick’s Day and every day: “May there always be work for your hands to do, may your purse always hold a coin or two, may the sun always shine on your windowpane, may a rainbow be certain to follow each rain, may the hand of a friend always be near you, and may God fill your heart with gladness, to cheer you. May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow, may the soft winds freshen your spirit, may the sunshine brighten your heart, may the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you, and may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.” - authors unknown

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-291-9002 or by e-mail to



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