Green is on Top

For any of you who drive a car or, for that matter, have ever been a passenger, one factor always remains constant—a traffic light is red on the top, yellow in the middle, and green on the bottom.  Take a drive to Tipperary Hill in Syracuse, New York, however, and you might think you are standing on your head. The traffic light there is reversed, with green on top and red on the bottom.green-on-top1

Why, you ask? The reason is probably more Irish urban legend than historical fact, but it helps to know that this section of town is very proud of its Irish heritage. In fact, they have a parade every February just to kick off the St. Patrick’s Day season!

When the traffic light was first installed way back in 1925, it was just an ordinary traffic light. The young Irishmen in the area, however, could not stand for the British red being on top of the Irish green.  Repeated stone throwing and subsequent fixing of the broken light caused the city leaders to relent, and the order of the traffic light’s colors has been reversed ever since.

No one can actually find concrete evidence of the timing of the above incident, except for interviews of the widows of the stone-throwing youths. Nevertheless, the traffic light has gained infamous status in this proud Irish section of the city. In fact, when the Irish prime minister came to the United States in 1995, he made a point of visiting the traffic light on Tipperary Hill.

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So the next time you are driving in Syracuse, make sure you make your way over to the intersection of Milton Ave. and Tompkins St. to visit this one-of-a-kind traffic light. But remember—green still means “go” and red still means “stop,” no matter what’s on top.

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All About Ogham

Wedding Ogham

A personalized hand-painted Ogham artwork makes the perfect Irish wedding gift!

Ogham pieces, especially personalized Ogham works, have become very popular gift items, and I have therefore decided to provide a little Ogham history. First and foremost, however, is a quick lesson in how to pronounce the word. “Ogham” is pronounced “Ohm,” not “Og-ham,” as you might assume.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Ogham is an alphabet, not a language, and is the earliest known form of writing in Ireland. The etymology of the word Ogham remains unclear. One possible origin is from the Irish og-úaim, “point-seam,” referring to the seam made by the point of a sharp weapon. The earliest inscriptions in Ogham date to the fourth century, but some contend the alphabet dates to as early as the first century BC.

An Ogham stone in Tralee, County Kerry

An Ogham stone in Tralee, County Kerry

There are two main schools of thought among scholars as to the motivation for the creation of Ogham. Some scholars suggest that Ogham was first created as a cryptic alphabet, designed by the Irish so as not to be understood by those with knowledge of the Latin alphabet. In other words, it was created by the Irish for political, military, or religious reasons, to provide a secret means of communication in opposition to the authorities of Roman Britain.

The second main school of thought is that Ogham was invented by the first Christian communities in early Ireland, out of a desire to have a unique alphabet for writing short messages and inscriptions in the Irish language. The argument is that the sounds of primitive Irish were regarded as difficult to transcribe into the Latin alphabet, so the invention of a separate alphabet was deemed appropriate.

Ogham alphabet

The Ogham alphabet

In either case, the alphabet consists of 20 linear characters, read from bottom upward. The characters of the alphabet were named after trees and plants. Originally, Ogham was inscribed on standing stones, carved into the edge of the stone. Roughly 380 of these standing stones have been discovered, with the highest concentration of them found in the southwestern part of the country, mainly County Kerry.

www.EverIrishGifts.com offers a large collection of hand-painted Ogham items, any of which can be personalized for that perfect Irish birth, birthday, wedding, or anniversary gift.

Sweet (and Savory) as Pie

It seems, these days, that every other day is a holiday. Oh sure, there are the biggies, like Christmas, July Fourth, and Thanksgiving, but let’s not forget the other ones, like Groundhog Day, Presidents Day, and National Pie Day. What’s that? Yes, you heard right—National Pie Day, which happens to fall each year on January 23 and has done so since it was established in 1986 by the National Pie Council.

OK, so National Pie Day is an “unofficial” national holiday, but that’s no reason not to celebrate it. I love a good pie more than almost anything (except chocolate chip cookies, but that’s another discussion for another day). So, I thought, what better way to mark this special day than by spending a few moments contemplating the pie.

Did you know, for example, that the first pies appeared around 9500 BC in the Egyptian Neolithic period or New Stone Age? Sometime before 2000 BC, a recipe for chicken pie was written on a tablet in Sumer.  Ancient Greeks are believed to have originated pie pastry, and a first century Roman cookbook mentions pies.

So what has this to do with All Things Irish? Glad you asked. Britain and Ireland have had a love affair with “pyes” since the 12th century that continues today. Think Cornish pasties, steak and kidney pies, and, of course, those unfortunate four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.

We at Ever Irish Gifts are not going to get quite so ambitious today, however. When I think of Irish pies, two immediately come to mind—one savory and one sweet. I’m talking about Irish Shepherd’s Pie and Bailey’s Irish Cream Pie. Could anything sound more delectable than a traditional Irish comfort food and a totally decadent dessert? Could there be a more appropriate way to celebrate National Pie Day, Irish style?

Here is a fabulous recipe for each. Enjoy, and happy Pie Day!

Stay Ever Irish,
Laura

 

Irish Shepherd’s Pie

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Shepherd’s pie is believed to have existed since around 1791, when potatoes became an available, affordable crop to the poor. This dish was a perfect way to stretch leftover roasted meat then, and it’s still a hearty and delicious way to ward off winter’s chill today.

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb ground beef or ground lamb (or a combination)
1 large onion, finely diced
3-4 large carrots, finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1 pound potatoes, cooked and mashed (approx. 6 cups)
1 egg, beaten

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Saute carrots in the olive oil until starting to get tender.
3. Add in the onions and saute for a minute or two then add the meat.
4. Season with black pepper and thyme.
5. Cook until meat is browned then drain fat.
6. Add the butter and peas.
7. Sprinkle with flour and stir well to incorporate.
8. Add tomato paste, wine, and Worcestershire sauce.
9. Let this reduce slightly then add the chicken stock. Allow to reduce down until you have a thick, meaty gravy. Season with salt to taste.
10. Remove from heat. Grease a 9″ x 13″ ovenproof casserole dish and add the meat/gravy mixture.
11. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes over top. Brush with egg.
12. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the potato is nicely browned on top.

 

Bailey’s Irish Cream Pie

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Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur is so creamily sweet and luscious that it could be a dessert all by itself. Add in Oreos, cream cheese, and chocolate and you’ve got heaven on a plate—no baking required!

Serves 8

Ingredients:

28 Oreo cookies
½ stick butter, melted
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 good-quality chocolate bar, frozen

Instructions:

1. In a food processor, blend Oreos until crushed to a fine crumb. Pour into bowl and mix in ½ stick melted butter. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie dish. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

2. To melt the chocolate, place a heat-proof bowl on top of a saucepan filled with about 1 inch of briskly simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water. Add the chocolate chips to the bowl and stir frequently until the chocolate melts. Watch carefully so that the chocolate does not burn or separate. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese for 2 minutes. Transfer whipped cream cheese into a clean bowl. In the mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream and ½ cup of Bailey’s until stiff peaks form. Once whipped cream is formed, fold in whipped cream cheese, melted chocolate, and remaining ½ cup of Bailey’s. Pour filling into the prepared pie dish. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

4. Using a vegetable peeler, peel curls of chocolate from the frozen candy bar and use to garnish top of pie.