St. Patrick’s Day Cheesecake


This folk recipe has become a holiday tradition for my informant in his household on St. Patrick’s Day. His mother makes the green cheesecake for St. Patrick’s Day, and only for St. Patrick’s Day, making it a particularly special food. And, though only his mother performs the act of making the cheesecake herself, his father also plays an active role in the tradition, as do he and his brothers. Before the boys can eat the special green St. Patrick’s Day cheesecake, the father, who plays the role of the ‘connoisseur’/food critic, ‘tests’ the cake and judges how good it is in comparison with the previous years’ cheesecakes. The father’s role is an inaugural one, much like that of the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil who either kicks off Spring or portends a longer winter—the main difference being, however, that the father’s ‘disapproval’ of the cheesecake doesn’t foretell anything bad in particular, it’s more of just a show. The role of the informant and his brothers, besides eating the cheesecake, is also to take part in the show of the food critique by defending their mother’s cooking if their father deems the cake inferior to previous years. I think that this show of testing and judging the cake is an integral part to keeping the family tradition alive, because it has elevated the cheesecake from the status of a folk recipe, in which the mother is the sole performer, to a whole family affair in which each member of the family has a part that is central to the successful performance of the tradition. In defending their mother and considering the cheesecake delicious regardless of what their father says, the boys ensure that the family tradition will be continued the following year.

The cheesecake being dyed green is very important because the unusual coloring for the cheesecake is not only a clear demarcation that it is a special occasion, but green is the traditional color worn on St. Patrick’s Day, stemming from the color of St. Patrick’s shamrock that he used to explain the Holy Trinity. So, this folk recipe is not only a way for the family to come together as a whole, but also is a way to celebrate an international holiday in a unique and special way.