Party hardy for St. Patrick’s Day
Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Gustave Toutant Pierre Beauregard and Marie Angel, two “seasoned” concrete pelicans, stand outside the home of Buddy and Marilyn Hardy sporting green hats and festooned with shiny shamrock trim. Nearby, a bright green St. Patrick’s Day banner flaps in the breeze.
Inside, Timothy O’Leary, a 4-foot stuffed leprechaun, is already at his place, seated at the head of one of several dinner tables where 40 guests will gather tonight for the Hardys’ annual corned beef and cabbage dinner, topped off by Irish coffee.
The party’s been a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for the Hardys for more than 25 years, said Marilyn Hardy — though she admits to toying with the idea of Cinco de Mayo before going Irish.
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“Irish people just have good times, they’re good- natured,” she said. And being Irish herself, she knows. “I’ve met very few Irish people I didn’t like.”
Hardy’s a natural entertainer and cook. Married 47 years to Buddy — and declining to give her age — Marilyn Hardy said the couple will prepare 25 to 30 pounds of corned beef for tonight’s dinner and have “no leftovers” for sandwiches tomorrow.
Buddy Hardy simmers the corned beef along with carrots, onions, rutabaga and turnips over a slow fire all afternoon. The vegetables are wrapped in cheesecloth to make it easier to fish them out of the pot, she said, and cabbage is added at the last minute so it doesn’t overcook.
A potato dish and slices of Irish soda bread round out the dinner menu, along with dessert and Irish coffee.
In the first years of the dinner, the Hardys invited four or five other couples, and “it just evolved” from there, she said. Before moving to their pond-side Fisher Ferry Road home three years ago, the Hardys hosted the party at their home on Chambers Street, where they had a large covered patio and plenty of space inside.
One Vicksburg couple, Carol and John Byram, have been coming since the first. “I remember one year they did not have their party,” Carol Byram said, laughing, “and until we found out, we all thought they just hadn’t invited us.”
Byram’s aunt made some of the ceramic mugs used for the Irish coffee.
Most years Marilyn Hardy has done all the work herself, except for Buddy’s pot tending. She’s recently suffered some health problems, however, and Byram and other friends are pitching in this year with potatoes, bread and desserts.
Marilyn Hardy has also been collecting and making the party decorations for years, including five or six leprechauns who appear with Timothy O’Leary. “These are all the little people who show up for the party,” she said, pulling them out of a plastic storage box.
She’s even got green hats and St. Patrick’s Day T-shirts for any guests foolish enough to show up without wearing something green. First they get the obligatory pinch, though.
“It’s a lot of work, but we’ve always had fun,” she said. “It used to go until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, but everybody got older!”
And the cleanup?
“Just terrible,” she said with a laugh. “But we just fill the pot with soapy water and let it boil, scrub it out and rinse it for the next time.”
It’s possible, though, that this will be the final year of the dinner — unless someone steps up to take the wooden spoon in hand next year, get those leprechauns in place and keep the green bowl filled with gold coins. “I may give in and do it again,” she said. “We’ll have to see.”
The Hardys have four sons, six grandsons and one granddaughter and attend Christ Episcopal Church. In addition to cooking and entertaining, Marilyn Hardy is an accomplished watercolorist.