Twelve years ago I took this photograph of Tony with my much-loved 35mm camera. To this day it is one of my favorite pictures. We were visiting Newgrange, a prehistoric site in Ireland. We traveled to Dublin, stayed at a youth hostel and drank up as much of Ireland as we could in a few days (Tony kept his sights on the local Guinness; I called anything on a tourist map).
“Be the Rock,” I said to him.
“Got it,” he replied.
Traveling to Ireland is really as Irish as we’ve ever been. Tony told me that re: raising the twins, it is my job to determine how much of my own heritage to insert; he would take care of his.
I started by diving off the deep end, “Donovan” I told them, “which is the last name Mama had before she married Daddy means descended-from-the-dark-haired.”
Henry and Sophia pretty much stared at me (and my hair) and we left it at that.
It’s not that I am ignorant or unwilling to share my parents/grandparents/great-grandparents heritage. I’m just not sure how you begin. Short of doing a DIY Saint Patrick preschool craft web-crawl and becoming your kids’ personal on-demand shamrock/rainbow/pot of gold drawing machine, how do you start to talk about something as complex as cultural traditions without being confusing? Perhaps you just have to embrace the mystifying. Which is probably why folklore lends itself so perfectly to my children.
I have learned that when it comes to holidays, celebrations, decorations, new signs and symbols that four-year-olds are pretty fabulous with their suspension of disbelief (be it willing or not). I can pretty much get them to believe anything I say. So when I took our standard sugar cookie recipe and made up a story about how leprechauns ran loose in the kitchen and stepped on all the cookies (and hid bits of rainbow inside), I had a captive audience who believed (immediately) in the power of mischievous fairies who ran about while mama made her Americanized version of Irish Soda Bread.
I use the expression a lot of blarney (there’s a more colloquial expression I’ve heard too. But I like to think of this as a family-friendly blog and it is not nice). I’ve never actually kissed the stone, I like to think I have a lifetime of gullibility which I’ve passed on to the next generation.
This is a recipe of my own hybrid-creation. We once ran out of butter and I used the grapeseed oil instead; use butter if you like. Also, the standard recipe in my cookbooks make way too many cookies. This is just the right amount for us.
Leprechaun Sugar Cookies
¾ cup sugar
2/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 eggs (or ½ cup avocado to turn the cookies green & be vegan-friendly)
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet with parchment. Combine flour, powder, salt, and cream of tartar with a whisk. Set aside. Cream oil and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time (or avocado). Add vanilla. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Add rainbow sprinkles.
Form into small balls. Press thumbprint (or back of a spoon) into the center. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool and tell your children a story about how their cookies were stepped on. Delight in their shock as they look at the “footprint” on their confection.