The Feast Of Saint Patrick

If there’s one thing I’m known for, it’s being a stickler for old world traditions. And if there’s a second thing I’m known for, it’s my faithful consumption of the foods one is expected to eat on the feast days of Catholic saints. But if there’s a third thing I’m known for, something deeply, intrinsically me, it would almost certainly be lying, ’cause I don’t do any of that other shit. Let me show you how we do St. Patty’s Day, Cincinnati style. Also, I created another holiday cocktail you can only find here at The Sci-Fi Guys. Click the pic and get your green on!

Yeah, I know this is a week late. Shut up. Most of you are still hungover, anyway.

I’m a Kentuckian, but I was born in Cincinnati, and I have lived either in the Queen City or in its shadow all of my life. And I can tell you this about my people: we are proud to be from Cincinnati. We are proud of the city. We are proud that there are things here that can be found nowhere else in the world, and things from around the world that have ended up here, but have been given our unique Cincinnati spin that makes them all our own. We love our town. But if there is anything about our shared culture, heritage, or traditions that we think might be profitable on St. Patrick’s Day, we will paint that shit green and sell it to you in bulk if we can get away with it. I don’t know if Cincinnati has an official motto, but a really good one would be “Everything Must Go.”

Shamrock Shakes weren’t invented in Cincinnati, but the very Irish-sounding Filet-O-Fish sandwich was, and for very Catholic reasons. There are lots of Catholics in Cincinnati. Back in the early 1960s, the Monfort Heights area of town was 87% Catholic. Burger sales in the area were terrible on Fridays, because Jesus did not used to let Catholic people eat meat on Friday. Except fish meat, which was somehow not considered meat. I don’t understand it, but I can surmise two things: 1) Jesus was mad at the Catholics and felt they didn’t deserve a nice pot roast or thick, juicy steak after after working all week, and 2) Jesus was operating under the assumption that fish were an unusually mobile form of plant life. It seems pretty weird that JC didn’t know fish were made of fish meat, especially considering his dad invented them and all. In fact, Jesus himself would enjoy a brief but noteworthy career as the world’s most famous amateur seafood distributor. You think he could have placed a quick fact-checking call to the old man and cleared all this up. But what the hell do I know? Jesus could not be reached for comment.

Lou Groen, a McDonald’s franchisee in Monfort Heights, invented the Filet-O-Fish sandwich in 1963 as a way to boost lagging sales on Fridays, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Lou, a Cincinnatian, invented a way to help Catholics not eat “meat” on Fridays, and that solution was so successful that today, exactly sixty years later, it now sells THREE-HUNDRED MILLION UNITS EVERY YEAR. Three. Hundred. MILLION. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Those three-hundred million Filet-O-Fish sandwiches every year are keeping a whole lot of Catholic souls from burning in Hell. So the point I’m trying to make here, when it comes right down to it, is that the Vatican owes us.

Click the pic to read more about Lou fuckin’ Groen, by god American superhero.

For the past sixty years, the efforts of one bold Cincinnati burger merchant have relieved the vast Vatican empire of the costly and time-consuming burdens of preventing sin and saving countless millions of Catholics around the globe from burning in eternal torment. It is my belief that every man, woman, and child of the Cincinnati–Northern Kentucky metropolitan area – the patch o’ land where Lou operated his restaurants – who financially supported Lou’s initiative by making Filets-O-Fish a part of our lives, have earned a little special treatment. You’d think the Pope, who used to be a technician in a goddamned food science laboratory, for Christ’s sake, would recognize how extraordinary this culinary achievement was. But no.

Much like Lou Groen, who never saw a single penny in compensation from McDonald’s for his invention, the people of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky are owed measures of gratitude and latitude I believe we will never receive. So if they won’t give it, I’m going to take it. From this point forward, I declare St. Patrick’s Day in the Cincinnati–Northern Kentucky metropolitan area to be a green-dyed, culinary free-for-all. We shall throw off the shackles of traditional Catholic feastery, and make St. Patrick’s Day as Cincinnati as absolute FUCK. And the first thing we’re putting on the menu is the Filet-O-Fish.

Secondly, we’re bringing back Phil A. O’Fish. The Filet-O-Fish sandwich may not be Irish, but its mascot sure as hell was. Phil A. O’Fish was a McDonaldland character who both appeared and disappeared in 1976. I would love to make a joke about him sleeping with the fishes, but this dapper bastard is one of the fishes, so sleeping with them is probably already his modus operandi. It sucks to be the star of a one-season show, but from the looks of things Phil either owns a lighthouse or is a well-to-do sea captain, so I bet he’s doing just fine. Since McDonald’s isn’t using him, we Cincinnati natives are going to adopt him. You’re one of us now, Captain/Mr. O’Fish. We’re going to relocate you to the Ohio River and treat you the way a beautiful Irish seafood mascot deserved to be treated in the mid to late ’70s; lots of velour, lots of ladies, and literal boatloads of cocaine. You’re welcome, Phil. It’s great to have you on board. Or overboard, as the case may be.

Third , Cincinnati is claiming the Shamrock Shake. It’s ours now. McDonald’s owes Lou, and the Holy See owes Cincinnati. You two bitches work out the details between yourselves, but we’re taking this. Besides, unlike the Filet-O-Fish, the Shamrock Shake wasn’t invented by a human, but by a soulless marketing company in Chicago. It was made with vanilla ice cream, vanilla syrup, and lemon-lime sherbet; a heady mélange of the world’s finest tropical flavors to remind us of the lush, steamy jungles of Ireland. Then, because that was too interesting, McDonald’s turned it into a plain-ass vanilla milkshake with green food coloring in it. What the fuck, Ronald? Eventually they were forced to add mint syrup to the recipe after several thousand unfortunate customers died of boredom. Jesus Christ. The story of the Filet-O-Fish is fucking Hamlet compared to this. You suck, McDonald’s. Cincinnati will take it from here.

I skipped Shamrock Shakes for a couple of years. At one point they tasted like vanilla Frosties with a powerfully repugnant dose of mint flavored gel toothpaste squeezed into it. It was worse than bad; it was actively nauseating. But I tried one again this year to see if things had changed, and, my loyal readers, I am pleased to tell you that not only has the flavor and mouthfeel improved, it might be better than ever. In fact, I enjoyed my experimental Shamrock Shake so much that there was none left to take a picture of when I got home. So when I prepared to take the banner pic you see at the top of the article, I got two more, plus an Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.

Pictured served in glass, just the way no McDonald’s has ever done it, ever.

The McFlurry was just okay. It didn’t taste different enough from the Shamrock Shake that there was really a clear distinction between the two, and I think that had a lot to do with the Oreo bits. They weren’t bits. If they had been, I might have tasted them. But these Oreos had been pulverized to powder. By the time I got to a place where I could eat the thing, the cookie dust had absorbed enough moisture from the surrounding ice cream that it was essentially just little black freckles. It was maybe somewhat kind of distantly a little bit chocolatey, I guess, but it didn’t add much, and certainly didn’t taste like Oreos.

Wherefore art thou, Oreo?

The verdict? Oreo Shamrock McFlurries are worth trying, but only once. If these things come back around next year I can’t realistically see myself buying another one. I mean, they’re good. And if you prefer spoons to straws, the McFlurry is the way to go. But if I’m going to ingest this many irresponsible mint flavored calories, I’d much rather do it in the form of a Shamrock Shake. I give Oreo Shamrock McFlurries a 6 out of 10.

Along with the Shamrock Shake, Cincinnati is also bringing back Uncle O’Grimacey. I don’t know what the hell McDonald’s has against friendly Irish food monsters, but they retire these guys like Rick Deckard retires replicants. Uncle O’Grimacey is, obviously, Grimace’s uncle from the old country, and to his credit he managed to last a bit longer than Phil A. O’Fish before the remorseless overlords at corporate banished him into the cornfield… the barleycorn field. Ah, Irish alcohol jokes. They never get o’ld.

Print this out, complete and color it, and submit a picture of you showing off your masterpiece to us here at The Sci-Fi Guys, and you will get a prize. No, I’m not joking. I have no idea what it will be, but you will get a reward for your efforts. It’s a far better deal than McDonald’s gave poor Uncle O’Grimacey, I promise you that.

Let’s talk for a minute about Cincinnati style chili. Let’s get the main sticking points out of the way: yes, some recipes call for cocoa powder. Yes, some recipes call for cinnamon. A rare few recipes call for neither, and quite a lot of them call for both. These unusual ingredients are used to add hints of bitterness and spice, respectively, and are in no way used in their usual sugary forms. Cincinnati style chili is a richly spiced meat sauce that is rarely eaten on its own, and the unusual flavor combination was invented by Greek immigrants to replicate the flavor profiles of Mediterranean and Eastern foods. It is most often served over spaghetti and topped with very finely grated cheese. If you are too squeamish to give these admittedly disparate ingredients a chance, might I suggest you look for more accessible nutritional alternatives elsewhere. Perhaps in baby food jars, or maybe inside tins of cat food. You know, because you’re a fucking pussy.

There are lots of chili parlors here in the Greater Cincinnati area, but there are only two main Cincinnati style chili powerhouses: Skyline and Gold Star. Gold Star is far and away the better restaurant and the superior chili, but on St. Patrick’s Day, even I have to make my way to Skyline. Because, for just this one glorious day a year, Skyline becomes the only Cincinnati style chili parlor in the universe that serves green spaghetti.

If you look at the left side of the banner image at the top of this article, you will see some green spaghetti in a wrap. I thought that there was no way any further improvements could be made in the Cincinnati style chili game, but the good folks at Skyline proved me wrong with the invention of the chilito. The only real weakness of Cincinnati style chili and spaghetti is that it has to be eaten with a fork… until now. Using a simple tortilla wrapped tight to keep the chili from spilling out, the chilito is a Cincinnati chili and spaghetti meal you can eat with one hand. While you drive. It’s a goddamned revolution. Gold Star is my favorite, but I have to hand it to Skyline on this one. The chilito is a game changer.

So you’ve had a Filet-O-Fish and a Shamrock Shake for lunch, and some chili and green spaghetti for dinner. After all that heavy food, you’ll be wantin’ a nip o’ somethin’ warm to ease your stomach and rest your brains. I’ve made a lot of jokes about Irish drinking, but the truth is I have no idea how factual that stereotype is. So this next tradition is not so much Irish as it is more of a Cincinnati area thing. And that, of course, is drinking at work. The Greater Cincinnati area is pretty conservative, and I don’t know of any company that allows for the consumption of alcohol in their offices. And drinking at work lunches here is downright taboo. So instead of drinking on the job, a whole lot of Cincinnati born folk do something I like to call “drinking on the job and lying about it.” It’s not the most elegant nor complex scheme, but it does have the benefit of making the people you work with a LOT more tolerable.

As I said before, I was born in Cincinnati, but I am a Kentuckian. I’ve lived here for the last forty-three years, which is plenty of time for a lot of old Kentucky ways to seep into my bones. I absolutely love Kentucky. But one thing I have never been able to love is whiskey. As a Kentuckian, it’s dangerous for me to admit that publicly. Living in the birthplace of bourbon and hating whiskey is like living in Ireland and hating… well, whiskey. It’s just not done.

I thought American whiskey was bad before I tried Jameson. In case you’re not familiar, this shit is terrible. It burns like soap in an open wound. You may as well just swallow a handful of live fire ants. But it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I have it on the good authority of an Irish barkeep that Irish people don’t bother with Guinness on St Patrick’s Day. They drink Jameson. So I’m willing to bite the bullet once a year and do as the Irish do.

To this end, I have once again blessed the world with the creation of a new holiday cocktail: The McJulep. The recipe is simple. The ingredients are one large Shamrock Shake and one 50ml miniature of Jameson. Take a slurp of the Shamrock Shake to make room for the Jameson. Then pour in the entire miniature and stir. End of recipe. For a cocktail containing a liquor I despise, it’s really not bad. Just make sure you stir intermittently as you drink or you’ll get an unpleasant mouthful of Irish solvent at the bottom of your cup. But when kept properly stirred, the cool green smoothness of a McJulep hides the taste of Jameson admirably, and keeps your breath minty fresh so your coworkers will have no idea you’re getting loaded on the job. Try a McJulep today, before McDonald’s stops selling the main ingredient for another year. I’m kind of proud of this one.

Éirinn go Brách!

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