Black Irish Bia

Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick

St. Patrick’s day is coming soon, which compels me to share a recipe that puts a new twist on an old holiday

“St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the saint’s religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast–on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.”

My grandmother and mother used to cook this dish — often — in hard times and good.

I am not Irish in the classic sense of the word. I am undeniably African American, by culture and commitment. The Irish part of my ancestry comes from a family named GAVIN who migrated from the Emerald Isle to America in 1695. They pursued their fortune as slave holders in South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. One of them sired 17 children with my great great grandmother. As a genealogist, this genetic trail has alternately befuddled and bemused me.

My precursor on the road to genealogical discovery used to call himself “black Irish” with a twinkle in his eye. (Yeah… no wonder… his part of my family distanced themselves from slavery by passing for white — It took many years for me to connect the dots.) The history of Irish in America is fraught with egregious history. As the “preferred” community of indentured servants in America’s founding days, one might conclude they were the first “N——rs” — before African people were forced unwillingly into their shoes.

Lately though, it’s pretty cool to be Irish — even if  one is black. In 2011, the president of the United States embraced his Irish roots when the proud citizens of Erie added an apostrophe to his name, christening him “O’bama.”

I was intrigued to recently discover the possibility that St. Patrick might have been …. BLACK (like me, more literally than I ever imagined) !!!

“Saint Patrick’s name at birth was Maewyn Succat. He was born somewhere near the end of the fourth century and took on the name Patrick or Patricus, after he became a priest, much later in his life. At the age of sixteen, Maewyn Succat was kidnapped from his native land of Britain by a band pirates, and sold into slavery in Ireland. Maewyn worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for solace. After six long years of slavery he escaped to the northern coast of Gaul.”

“It is widely publicized that the Irish influence in northwestern Africa, specifically Nigeria, was a relatively strong one. The region was a robust trader of agri-goods and human resources in the 3rd and 4th centuries. In 432 AD, Pope Celestine I sent a former slave named Patrick (who became a War Lord) with an army into Ireland to convert the general population to Christianity. In the process of converting the local inhabitants, Patrick’s army allegedly ‘slew thousands of Irishmen, founded more than 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000 persons.’ He used a three leaf clover (shamrock) to illustrate the Holy Trinity-the unity of 3 in one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is within this historical context that I offer my “black twist” on “Bia” (the Gaelic word for food) = Food for the soul — no matter what race you are!

Streamed pork ribs & cabbage

Streamed pork ribs & cabbage


2# country style pork ribs (cut into segments)
4 cups water (more if needed)
1 small cabbage (sliced in wedges)
6x red potatoes (cut in half moons)
1 cup carrots (cut in rounds)
1 cup celery (chopped)
1x onion (sliced thin)


1tbs garlic (crushed)
1 tbs thyme
1 tbs pepper (crushed red)
¼ cup red wine vinegar


USE Dutch oven
MIX seasoning in a small bowl
RUB mixture on the ribs
PUT ribs in pot and COVER with water
COOK until ribs are done (about one hour, add more water if needed)
LAYER cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery & onion in the pot on top of the ribs
COOK until vegetables are done (firm, not mushy)
SERVE over rice w/cornbread on the side


1 Comment

  1. 12 March 2013 at 1:25 am

    Now I love that tongue in cheek way of saying all that is necessary…Nuff Said… Lets Eat!!!

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