Chow Town

How barbecue saved St. Patrick

Soon we’ll be getting our green on to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Officially it’s a religious observance in celebration of Saint Patrick’s role in bringing Christianity to Ireland.

It has also become a major annual secular party. Chow Town’s celebration begins with a Snake Saturday Parade, barbecue contest and corned beef contest in North Kansas City. Citywide parades, parties and other celebrations follow on March 17.

Thanks to Thomas Cahill’s 1995 book, everybody knows “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” A lesser known story, true or not, is how barbecue saved Saint Patrick.

Patrick was kidnapped from his British homeland at around age 16 and sold into slavery. The solitude of sheepherding in Ireland helped him develop physically and spiritually.

One day a group of Irish Wolf Hound hunters from Britain happened upon Patrick. He told them he was a slave and urged them to take him home. They refused. He persisted until they said yes.

On the way back to the ship, they lost their way into drought-parched land. Hot, thirsty and starving, they were scared and desperate, but refused Patrick’s pleas to pray with him for deliverance.

Finally, they got on their knees as Patrick prayed aloud. In the distance they heard thunder. Instead of rain, it was a drove of wild pigs. They butchered and barbecued enough pigs for a hearty feast. Their strength and wits renewed, they found their ship and sailed home.

Patrick studied theology, was ordained and became a bishop. As bishop he dedicated himself to joining a small number of priests already spreading Christianity in Ireland. His exemplary missionary work led to recognition as the primary patron saint of Ireland.

Knowing this historical tidbit makes Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations all the more memorable. Since barbecued pigs saved Saint Patrick, why not celebrate with barbecued pork in addition to or instead of the always delicious boiled corned beef?

Try this:

BBQ Pork Butt, Smashed Cheesy Potatoes Boiled Cabbage

1 pork shoulder

2 to 3 medium red potatoes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red peppers

1/4 cup melted butter

Smoke a pork shoulder 10 to 12 hours until pull-apart tender, or buy pulled pork from your local pitmaster, about a fourth pound per serving.

Boil 2 to 3 medium size red potatoes, skin on, per serving. Add 1/4 cup cider vinegar, a teaspoon of black pepper, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the water.

When potatoes are fork tender, remove from water with tongs and set aside in a casserole bowl. Add small cabbage wedges to the boiling water; cook until tender.

While the cabbage cooks, smash the potatoes with the bottom of a drinking glass. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle 1/4 cup melted butter over the potatoes, then a cup of grated cheddar cheese over the potatoes. Put the potatoes in a warm oven or microwave until cheese is melted. Garnish with chopped curly parsley.

Irish ale is the preferred complementary beverage. Enjoy in moderation.

Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”