Saint David's Day: A Primer

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Though it’s not in our Five Pieces of Beacon, we believe the more parties the better, especially if there’s food involved. So let's press pause on the Saint Paddy’s plans for a second, and add another celebration to the calendar.

I hadn’t heard of Saint David’s Day, or perhaps hadn’t realized it’s significance, until a cocktail with a roasted leek popped up in my Instagram feed. I’m unsure if it was the leek or the liquor, but suddenly I had to learn more about my new reason to celebrate on March 1. Enter Alistair Williams, part owner of The Portrait Gallery in downtown Matthews, and a local expert on all things Welsh. He gladly took a minute to give me the Saint David’s Day Cliff Notes.

David, a monk in the 6th Century AD, helped spread Christianity across the country and was later named the Patron Saint of Wales. It’s the equivalent of Saint Patrick for Ireland, Saint George for England, and Saint Andrew for Scotland. Just as Saint Patrick’s Day is a holiday in Ireland, so is Saint David’s Day in Wales.

What’s with the leeks, though? In a battle between the Saxons and the Welsh, it became difficult to tell which side the soldiers were fighting for. One observant monk started plucking leeks for the Welsh soldiers to wear, and the stinky allium later became a national symbol, typically tucked in buttonholes on Saint David's Day. Fortunately for our noses, over time the odoriferous vegetable has been replaced with another, less offensive flowering bulb, the daffodil.

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But we know what's really important here at the Beacon, so let’s talk food. What do you eat for Saint David’s Day? Obviously anything with leeks. Alistair also quickly listed a handful of other items unfamiliar to my southern ears: Rarebit, with a Welsh accent, sounds a lot like rabbit, but rest assured it’s beer cheese and not Bugs. There’s also a lot of lamb on the menu, as well as crempog, the Welsh version of a pancake.

While the cocktails aren't listed anywhere in Wikipedia's Saint David's Day summary, we do have to talk about the cocktail that caught my eye: muddled roast leek, cachaça , hazelnut liqueur, with citrus. Sounds like if you drink a couple of those Saint David himself might speak to you.