In a month remembered mostly as a penitential time punctuated by several, wonderful major feasts – St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, St. Joseph’s Day, March 19 and The Annunciation of the Lord on March 25 – St. David’s Day slips by with little attention in this part of the world.
In Wales, where this Monk who helped keep the flame of Christ and the Gospels alive during the Dark Ages and is the beloved national patron, it’s a different story. For hundreds of years, St. David was celebrated every March 1 (the date of his death) with full religious fervor in keeping with the many miracles attribted to him.
In the most incredible, he defied gravity, causing the ground to rise underneath him while he preached in order to give everyone an unobstructed view.
Sad to say, the religious feast of St. David in Wales came to an end with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. But such was the love for this native son of Wales, that the day of his death resurfaced as a national festival in the 18th century and remains one to this day.
Still celebrated by schools and cultural societies throughout Wales (and at restaurants, pubs and around kitchen tables too), it’s the custom on March 1 to wear either the national symbols of a leek or a daffodil as a corsage in his honor.
Legend has it that the Welsh wore leeks into battle as a way to distinguish themselves from their English foes. According to several Internet sites, daffodils are the pacific alternative.
In honor of St. David here are two recipes that are standard and appealing fare not only on St. David’s Day but all year long: Welsh Leek and Potato Soup and the ever popular Welsh Rabbit.
Ingredients: 4 medium boiling potatoes; 2 slices bacon; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1 medium onion, chopped fine; 2 tablespoons unsalted butter; 4 medium leeks (white parts only), halved lengthwise, sliced thin crosswise and washed well; 5 cups chicken broth; 1/3 cup heavy cream; 2 tablespoons snipped, flat-leafed parsely and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Directions: Peel the potatoes and dice into 1/2 cubes; in a 4 quart saucepan, fry bacon in butter until golden crisp; add garlic and onion and cook over medium-low heat, sitrring until onion is tender. Add potato and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in broth and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes or until the potato is very tender. If desired, puree in a blender in batches until the soup is smooth. Stir in cream, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until hot.
Ingredients: 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese; 2 tablsepoons butter; 1 egg; 1 teaspoon dry mustard; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/2 cup beer or ale; 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce; 8 slices toasted bread of your choice or 4 English muffins.
Directions: In a double boiler, warm butter and cheese which has been cut into small pieces; stir until the cheese is melted. Add the egg which has been beaten with the mustard and salt, continuing to stir and cook until well blended. Gradually add Worcestershire sauce beer as you stir and heat until very hot. Serve over the bread or muffins. Sprinkle with paprika.