Women also played a key role during the wake itself, ‘keening’ vocal expression of the communal grief. While keening is usually equated with inarticulate wailing, it is often a sad song, a favorite perhaps of the deceased, or a lament composed on the spot extolling the departed’s virtue or circumstance of death. One such is “Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire.” The late 18th c. epic poem tells of the life and tragic demise of Art O’ Laoghaire. who was murdered by Abraham Morris at Carraig an Ime, County Cork on May 4, 1793. Composed extemporaneously at Art’s wake by his pregnant wife Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill, the 390-line keening is one of the greatest love poems of the Irish language, one of its greatest laments, and one of the finest compositions to have survived from Irish oral literature.
When I remarked to a friend that I had watched all the ceremonies marking the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, she asked “Why? You didn’t know him at all.” “True,” I answered, “but I respected him. I knew him to be not only my friend, but a friend to all Americans.” And I will always hold dear his words: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” Rest in peace, Teddy. Sláinte!
One 6-8 pound oven-ready ham (not a salted country ham)
1⁄4 cup juniper berries (if dried soak until soft)
1 1⁄2 cups French style mustard
(country style coarse if possible)
1 cup gin (should cover the
bottom 1 inch of the meat)
1 cup brown sugar
Score the ham to a depth of 1/2 inch on all sides. Rub juniper berries into the cuts all over. Marinate ham in gin in plastic bag or container (1-2 days). Mix the gin with the brown sugar and mustard, thinning with a bit of water to make a ‘wash.’ Cover ham with the mixture. Place in a roasting pan and cover with tinfoil, pierced in several places. Bake 20-30 minutes per pound in a 325° F oven. Remove foil and continue baking another 20-30 minutes until skin is slightly crisp. From time to time, baste with liquid from bottom of pan. Do not allow the ham to become dried out. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Slice and pour pan juices over the sliced meat. Serves 10-12 people.
2 3⁄4 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking power
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup oat flakes
Bacon fat for frying
Extra oat flakes
Mix dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is grainy. Quickly mix in mashed potatoes (can be warm). Divide in two parts, knead 1/2 cup of oat flakes into each, and roll into two balls. Sprinkle extra oat flakes on a pastry cloth, place one ball of dough at a time on the pastry cloth and roll each one into a circle 1/4 inch thick. Divide each into farls or quarters. Heat griddle to smoking hot, grease with bacon fat, grill farls 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. As oats will brown darker than the farls, make sure they do not burn. Makes 8 farls. Serve with butter and a selection of Irish cheeses.
– Recipes by Conrad Bladey, author of The Wake Which Knows No Sleeping.