Irish ways are featured in course Music, story-telling and food included

July 29, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff writer

Calling all Macs and Os!

Conrad Bladey, teacher of a course in Irish culture being offered this fall at Anne Arundel Community College, invites the Irish population of Anne Arundel County to learn a bit more about being Irish.

He bills the course as "learn to grow your own culture at home" and promises everything from weekly Irish teas to live music and story-telling.

The course also is a way to connect with the Irish community, which Mr. Bladey says is prominent in the central and southern parts of the county. In Annapolis, the Commodore John Barry Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians has held a St. Patrick's Day party for 13 years. The club meets once a month at the Naval Academy and has been active in bringing teen-agers from Northern Ireland to the United States for a summer.

"Anne Arundel is primarily a Catholic county, and there are many Irish Catholics in the area, particularly around Arnold," says Mr. Bladey.

Each of the five sessions will last two hours and will include one craft project of ancient folk art; instructions and recipes for one Irish dinner dish; folk tales and music.

Each class also will focus on a different aspect of culture, such as art, literature, history, village life, travel to Ireland and music.

The "crafts" are things such as corn dollies, which are not dolls but abstract ornaments made from wheat by people who work in the fields, Mr. Bladey says.

He'll play live music -- using Irish tin whistles -- and taped tunes.

During each class, the students will break for Irish tea, which will be accompanied by hearty soda bread, baked by Mr. Bladey.

In later classes, each student will bring a tea food from dessert recipes they'll receive during class.

For the final session, the class will meet in an Irish pub in Baltimore, where Mr. Bladey will lecture about village pub life and travel to Ireland. After the two-hour discussion, he'll open the floor for students to repeat favorite songs or tales they've learned in the course.

Several hundred people have taken the class in Baltimore County, where Mr. Bladey has taught Irish culture for five years as an adult education course.

"I'm not Irish," says Mr. Bladey, who lives in Linthicum. But while he started out to regain the Polish ancestry his family had lost, he ended up studying Celtic archaeology in Germany.

As an undergraduate, Mr. Bladey did bibliographic work for the Irish Association in Germany and met the large Irish community in Munich. And he got hooked on the culture.

"The archaeology of the ancient Celts eventually reached Ireland, giving the country its personality," he says.

For example, even Irish tea times are distinctly Irish, Mr. Bladey says.

"They're different from English ones in mostly the fruit -- the chunks of tangerine, the orange peel and raisins in the breads and cakes," he says.

"Also, Irish teas happen all the time. The Irish have a reputation for having tea run right out of a spigot; there's always a cup ready. The teas are a bit more rural-minded, more socially open than British teas. Irish tea is also a slightly different blend of tea, mellow rather than acidic," he says. Typical tea foods are tarts, whiskey cakes, custard made with seaweed and cake with candied orange slices.

"In America, it's important that people have access to classes where they can examine and look at aspects of culture and things they can bring home," Mr. Bladey says.

"Often, much is lost in the as similation process. People want programs to learn how to cook what your mother should've taught you" -- such as that Irish recipes mean molasses when they call for "treacle".

Many of those who've taken the course prepare for travel to Ireland, Mr. Bladey says. Others just want to pick up stories, recipes or crafts.

When students begin to savor the taste of the Irish -- from music to food -- they absorb themselves in a slice of culture that was exotic for its time, Mr. Bladey says.

"The mellow, medieval flavor of cinnamon, all-spice, currants -- you must remember this is the flavor and eloquence of what was rich, very costly and special."

For more information on the class, call Mr. Bladey at 789-7829 or to register, call Anne Arundel Community College at 541-2510. The class number is DNC 307-901. Registration begins Aug. 5.

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