Summer is here and lemonade season is upon us. Every time I squeeze a lemon for juice, I smile and think of the old proverbial saying …
“When life gives you lemons,
What an encouraging, optimistic, can-do phrase, loved throughout America! Today let’s explore the origins of this phrase and let me introduce you to the Irish version of the lemonade philosophy.
Origins Of The Saying “When Life Gives You Lemons:”
Do you ever find old words of wisdom spinning in your head, and stop to wonder how on earth that particular saying came to be?
Well, as I squeezed a lemon for some Irish lemon and sugar pancakes the other day, the well-loved lemonade saying started somersaulting round my noggin.
And like so many of us nowadays, I took to the Internet in search of an answer. I even ventured outside my own little corner of the world wide web. And quite predictably, I followed the trail where it usually leads, right to Wikipedia, and on their lemons and lemonade page I found my answer.
Who can remember leafing through pages of hard bound encyclopedia volumes in search of answers to crazy questions like this one? I’m aging myself now. So back to the lemons, before I have to apply them to my face as an anti-aging salve.
First Coined In 1915:
Well, here’s what I discovered. This beloved lemon statement dates back to 1915. For some reason, I imagined this saying to be much, much older.
I had visions of women in petticoats in the hot, sweaty days of the gun slinging wild west, squeezing lemons for lemonade, and dreaming their American dream. I never really thought about how they might have got their hands on lemons in mid-19th century Nebraska, or Kansas or Colorado? So let’s get back to the facts.
First used in an obituary written by Elbert Hubbard for an actor Marshall P. Wilder, who was of very short stature, Hubbard praised Wilder’s optimistic attitude in the face of his disability ….
“He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him
and started a lemonade-stand.”
In a 1948 book entitled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie advised …
“If you have a lemon, make a lemonade.”
And so, this encouraging phrase is truly an American creation, encapsulating the optimistic and hopeful values of all who believe in the American dream.
But of course, we Irish could not leave this phrase be. A truly Irish American twist on this good old saying inevitably emerged. Have you ever heard the Irish lemons and lemonade philosophy?
The Irish Version Of “When Life Gives You Lemons:”
Confession time. This new phrase is one I only recently learned from a reader. It’s an Irish American phrase, and not one born in the old country and brought across the proverbial pond.
A reader e-mailed me one day to let me know he enjoyed my ramblings, and that my turn of phrase reminded him of his late mother. And then he shared his favorite maternal quotation, which I just had to share with you here.
Be prepared. It’s a good one, that could only ever have been first uttered by an Irish woman …
“When life gives you lemons,
sell them and buy potatoes.”
And so, I share this little bit of Irish American wit and wisdom with you today, in memory of this reader’s wonderful Irish mother.
The Humble Potato:
Now as you all know we Irish love our potatoes, and the humble spud played an integral role in the history of Ireland, and America. Potatoes are part of our cultural identity.
Some readers requested I write a few blog posts dedicated to the humble spud. Irish people’s obsession with “floury” potatoes was a big topic of conversation in the comment section for my Traditional Irish Potato Soup recipe.
And so today, I am selling my lemons to buy potatoes and introducing you to my potato series, which I am dubbing the “Spud Saga.”
Over the coming days I’ll share some recipes and ramblings all inspired by our beloved Irish spud. So do stay tuned and come back in a day or two for the next installment of The Spud Saga.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)