Italian Sauce is something that is labored over, loved, predetermined, and family-centric. Irish Sauce, on the other hand, is factory made but Lass-Altered.
My Irish momma, and predecessors before her, perfected Irish Sauce. They would buy Prego, or whichever red stuff in a jar that makes Italians' hearts palpitate, and throw in whatever they happened to have in the pantry. Sure, it took a couple of minutes as opposed to hours and there was enough sodium to kill a heart-attack victim, but it was, with those few additions, HER sauce.
Last night, I used some of the ground goose meat we had processed and made my own Irish Sauce. I added cayenne, basil, cilantro, and a few other gems to the pot; minutes later- it was perfect.
Irish Sauce: our North Dakota adventure in a jar.
We've been in North Dakota for a year exactly today. We've already moved three times, gained an additional dog, made and lost friends, participated in some of the best waterfowling ever witnessed, and suffered through more blizzards than I care to count. We've seen temperatures above 110, below -50 and everywhere in between. We called a 28-foot camper home until the booming metropolis of Bismarck bustled around us in yet another bead in a string of rental houses; now, our nearest neighbor is 3.5 miles away; going to the grocery store takes 36 miles roundtrip; the back, side, and front yards of our homestead extend for at least 2200 acres; and a town we have not for the nearest does not include this prairie paradise.
When I had first moved to North Carolina, many of my friends (Poptart included) wondered how I could leave my family, everything I knew, to move 735 miles away to be with someone I had only known for a few months.
The move to North Dakota brought even bigger quandaries: how can you move to a place you've never spent any time, 1500 miles away from anyone you remotely know, in a place known for its brutal winters and whipping prairie wind?
To that I could only reply: Irish Sauce can be made from anything.
Sure, the ingredients are different, the pot is in a flat landscape pretty far from home, but if I add a little but of this and a little bit of that--it'll work, and so it has.
However, our new recipe of Irish Sauce (otherwise known as the Living in the Middle of Absolutely Nowhere brand) has taken some getting used to. Hence, without further adieu, I give you:
The Irish Sauce Guide to Living in North DakotaCaution: add ingredients, patience, and a little humor as needed to optimize your Northern Prairie experience.
1) Carrier pigeons may be your best correspondence bet.
Normally, our mail came everyday, no matter how many miles we lived outside of town. Here, our mail comes whenever it feels the need to make an appearance. We get notices that our bills are late before the bills make their way to our mailbox. I'm still waiting on a dress I had made which, at last check, was, according to the postmaster, "Somewhere in North Dakota". I'm assuming I'll receive it late July 2014.
When I was in Egypt, I was told that the men who cart tourists around on camels are the most swarthy and untrustworthy of men. Whomever told me that had never heard the lies spewed from the Weather Channel in reference to my current home state. Besides completely ignoring the whole of the state when massive blizzards pound through the region, the Weather Channel (or the Slimy Soothsayers as I like to refer to them) will predict weather that doesn't happen for months. Case in point- a full day above freezing has habitually hung its hat on the 10th day of every 10-day forecast for the last 3 months. This elusive non-freezing day is as evasive, if not more so, than the resident Jackalope population.
Much akin to a wunderkind or a prodigy who ritualistically complains that they never ASKED to be a pianist with 15 usable fingers, NoDak plows cannot be found when white confetti begins to fall from the heavens. Ever the finically prudent ones, this state does not dispatch its army of snow eradication until well after the storm has passed through. Also, county snow plows, who, I assume, plow country roads, only perform the function every 12th tuesday during months ending in "Ary". Hence, when it snows- stay inside or be prepared to shell out your child's college fund for a backhoe bigger than your garage.
4) Beer- it's what's for breakfast..and lunch..and dinner.
It's said that no state in this United of the collective drinks more beer, on average, than North Dakota. After living here, it's not a surprise. Every meeting, gathering, job interview, or memorial service ends with at least one person saying, "So, who's up for a beer at [insert name of round-the-corner, seedy establishment of liquid libation]?" Everyone always says yes, sure, just one, and ends up in the bar, clutching a tomato juice-Bud Light concoction like it's the Holy Grail of beer, not a pitcher filled with alcoholic pasta sauce.
5) Minnesota is evil.
Fargo, the move about abductors-cum-murderers, gave North Dakotans a bad wrap from the weather to the way everyone says "Oh gosh, doncha' know now?" Many natives of the area hate the movie, what it represents, and the state from whence it was filmed, gosh darn Minnesota, doncha know? I happen to love the movie because it helps me refine my NoDak accent, much to the joy of anyone who would rather not hear it, gosh darnit. Many a Scandinavian predecessor will tell you that Minnesotans should stay out of our state and take Fargo with them, like a goose fart on a foggy day, ya know?
6) A dollar can't buy much, but it can get you out of a speeding ticket.
NoDak's antediluvian tendencies make this an entertaining, if not partially dangerous, place to live. One of my friends has lived here for more than a year and he's already had 5 speeding tickets. Upon his first offense, he figured the fine would be steep, for he was going more than 20 miles over the speed limit. Imagine his slack-jawed face at the courthouse when he found that, besides the $10 court fee, the fine was $1 for every mph over the speed limit reached. My friend then, as men are wont to do, speeds everywhere he can and pays the paltry fine. He claims his reckless, if not controlled and fiscally irresponsible, driving helps boots the economy, one selection from the Dollar Menu at a time.
One of my college buddies, a wide-eyed future movie screenwriter who moved from New York to California to "pursue his career" (read: he refers to himself as the next Quintin Teretino to whichever table he's waiting on at Hard Rock Cafe) was pretty surprised when he heard of my great Northern escape. He, one of millions, is under he impression that North Dakota is one big hoax, a joke on the part of the Federal Government who lies about the oil being produced or the presence of people actually living here. According to his logic, one simply drops off the map and into Canada when they reach the northernmost tip of South Dakota, an area that certifiably exists because of the presence of those "Rock Presidents". One of my other friends asks me weekly how Alaska is treating us; another has refused to visit, not because of the distance, but because his passport has expired.
It's a different life. For many, it's a life that will never be for many of the reasons described above. But, if you're willing to make your own brand of Irish Sauce, as I have here amongst the treeless, empty landscape, you'll be able to do what many have failed to: call North Dakota home.