I want to make a confession: I’ve never sampled green beer! You see, I grew up in Dublin, where in the 1980s, the St. Patrick’s Day parade, held in still-freezing March temperatures, was a fairly sombre, pallid march down central city streets. It was helped along by middle-aged Americans looking cheerful and wearing green or plaid trousers, looking like they had just stepped off a golf course, and marching bands from America, which were fun to watch and listen to. All I can remember besides that were floats from Irish insurance companies, the only companies that had any money in the 80s. And if we were lucky, the family got a post-parade meal of burgers and chips at an Americanized cafe called Solomon Grundy’s around the corner.
Anyway, when I came to America in my early 20s, it was a revelation to me that people got drunk and had fun on St. Patrick’s Day, that there was even a genuine sense of joyousness about, an excuse to have a party! And they drank green beer, I marvelled. I had never seen green beer in Ireland. It was one of the long litany of things we “didn’t have” there.
But I’ll say that almost 25 years after leaving, I treasure getting an annual St. Patrick’s Day card from my 94-year-old grandmother, a Dubliner who lives in Wicklow. The Irish treat St. Patrick’s Day with irony, even humor, now. Perhaps it’s turned into a genuine day of celebration over there, with the Catholic Church on its way out.
I came across a Patrick-related cartoon on Facebook yesterday that made me burst out laughing. I think it expresses the silliness of venerating a man for driving snakes out of a country. I suspect Ireland would welcome the snakes back now.
Here’s a question I wouldn’t have thought to ask a few years ago… What’s in green beer? Well, dye, of course. It turns out that food dyes are not benign–they’re pretty bad for you actually, since they’re made from petroleum-based substances. For green beer, the food dyes used are a mixture of FD&C blue and yellow (and also paraben, a rather nasty preservative that’s in most everything). But it turns out that the most toxic food dye is Red No. 40, known as Allura Red in the U.S.
Now hyperactivity in kids has been proven to be linked to food dyes. Last year I wrote a report on ADHD and food dyes for a health website. Is ADHD Caused by Diet? The Food Dye Problem is up on Kindle now and it’s free today. Pick it up if you’d like to learn more about ADHD in kids and adults, and how to avoid particular foods which are laden with food dyes in the U.S. Many of them are specifically marketed to kids, of course.
But don’t let that stop you quaffing the green beer. As for me, it’s on my bucket list, meaning things to put off trying down the road…:)