The youngest of four boys, John O'Connell was the last to move out of the family home. His parents worried that he wasn't taking care of himself and eating enough on his own. So John set out to prove to them he was doing okay by making his grandmother's Irish beef stew.
His grandmother had used roast beef and butchered the meat herself, but back in Ireland she'd probably used mutton or pork. When she passed the recipe down to her daughter, John's mother purchased pre-cut meat instead and added flour to the gravy.
The two women also had different ideas on when to add the meat to the sauce. When it came time for John to put his own spin on the dish, he combined elements of both versions of the recipe. But it was his Dad who would make the final judgement on his efforts.
When he makes the stew now, John's thoughts turn back to his family and life in the mother land.
"Actually when I think about Ireland, I think about the potato famine…Most of the Irish dishes have potatoes. So my Irish stew is loaded with potatoes and onions. It's a nice hearty meal, especially during the fall when it's getting chilly outside and you want to load up on all your veggies and minerals."
Born in the Bronx, John O'Connell is a child welfare advocate and licensed social worker who is a co-host of the About Men Radio Show
. This story was produced for "Coming to the Table" from Feet in Two Worlds