Every year for the last 20 I have made a pilgrimage to the St. Patricks Day capital of the world. Not in Chicago, New York or even Savannah where my sister attends the parade there yearly. My St. Patricks Day HQ for the last 20 years has been… Kenosoha, Wisconsin. Sixteen of those years I help purvey the beef and was in charge of the slicing. This happened after I had attended the event a few years and inquired where Patrick McGuire (host of the event) had acquired the beef? He informed me that he raided every supermarket in a 15 mile radius for the best pieces he could gather. That’s a lot of gathering when your feeding 150+ people. I then volunteered to help purvey the meat knowing where to get large pieces of corned beef at much better price (Firehouse tradition is corned beef every Saturday. If you’re the cook you learn where to purchase the BIG briskets). Patrick and his wife Anna, my friends, treated this day like others treat Christmas, Hanukkah and Easter. The folks invited were an amazing collection of family, teachers, politicians, lawyers, laborers, students and whoever they or their children felt were worthy to attend. Everyone there was polite, friendly and open to conversation. When I started attending all the kids were living at home. McGuire kids always took off school for the day. As the kids grew up and attended college they would fly back home for the festivities. Many times bringing with them a group of their classmates. When folks attending got older, married and had kids their children too became part of the festivities (my kids looked forward to it every year). Here is the most amazing part. When dinner was served EVERYONE SAT DOWN TOGETHER at the many, many tables set up for the occasion. Salad, parsleyed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, Patrick’s world famous Irish Soda Bread (with or without raisins) and of course the 100+ pounds of sliced corned beef. (In the early days I sliced a lot of corned beef but as I got older the McGuire kids got older and assisted. Friends and neighbors would assist as well. In the later years I more or less supervised with a glass of Irish whiskey in hand. The corned beef slicing had become a party unto itself.) You grabbed a seat wherever there was space. Never sitting next to a stranger just someone you had not had the opportunity to meet yet. After dinner many folks would jump right in and help store the leftover food, pack up to-go bags and wash the dishes. It was another mini-party unto itself as well. If it was a school night or you had wee ones many headed home right after desert (amazing deserts brought by the guests.) Some folks (such as this writer) stayed late as there was never a hurry to leave ( As I had kids of my own we had to head home at a respectable hour) and still lots of great company and conversation to be had. Well I am sorry to say the party has ended. After 25 years of celebrating the Mcguire’s have called it quits. While sad to see the party end I am truly humbled and honored they invited me to the party to begin with. My hope is that one of his children pick up the tradition so I can go visit them, slice some corned beef and hang with some amazing people. Till then I salute the McGuire’s with a glass of Irish whiskey. Thank you for such generosity for such a long time span. Well done sir!
p.s. I can still acquire some tasty corned beef at a decent price!