Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Having Irish Tastebuds

Mike and I are both more than half Irish. That means that Nick is more Irish than anything else. Oh, Mike is part Scottish and part English. I'm part mutt in addition to Irish and German, but the Irish is predominant. Sometimes I wonder how much food preferences are passed through genetics. I love Irish food, bangers, black and white pudding, Guinness, stews, all of it. Right now, corned beef is bubbling in the slow cooker.

It's the season for making Irish soda bread. Few things last through a hundred and sixty-five years of mixing cultures and traditions. Food and child-rearing are the only ones I can think of. I was raised on a German foundation, it seems, food and discipline, meat, sour kraut, potatoes, and dense sweet cake. When I went to Germany, I felt very much at home. Though my German hosts were better cooks than my mother, it was my Grandma's house, the smells and flavors that came to mind when I ate in Germany. I could have cried when the woman put the plate of food in front of me and it looked, smelled, and tasted like being at Grandma's house. I had no German words to express it and she didn't need English to understand.

Mike's residual culture is Irish, so when his Grandma showed me how to make the Irish soda bread twenty-five years ago, I paid attention. Her recipe is easy but different than any Irish soda bread I've ever eaten, even when we went to Ireland. After all of these years, it's the combination of raisins and caraway seeds in the bread that reminds me of the season, birthdays, spring, and St. Patrick's Day.

Last week, Nick told me he wanted to bring Irish soda bread to his Language Arts class. He's been bringing Irish soda bread to class for St. Patrick's day since he was in preschool. Back then, it involved twelve kids, one loaf and a little bit of butter. When he went into sixth grade, he announced that he wanted it for every class. What? I put my foot down and agreed on one class of his choice. Only his favorite teacher made the cut. This year, he wanted to bring it to two classes. That's 64 kids. I told him if that was what he wanted, he could make bread a week ahead and I would make it the second time.

For thirty-two kids, he took four small loaves leaving us with one and a half loaves, triple the recipe. I've found that after you multiply a recipe by four, it begins to shift out of proportions. I don't know why. At that point, it's better to weigh the ingredients.

When we were in Ireland, we ate soda bread almost every morning. Sometimes it was light and had raisins and caraway seeds the way we know it. Sometimes it was dense, almost like a meatloaf. Raisins were optional, but caraway seeds were always there in it.

This week, Mike asked for two loaves for work and two loaves for his Boy Scout troop. I tripled the recipe again and it still only left one loaf for us at home. So, tonight, we had corned beef and potatoes for dinner. Mike can't eat cabbage and I don't think Nick or I missed it. And we're going to eat Irish soda bread for an appetizer, with dinner, and as dessert. I might even have a beer after we get home from the Scout meeting. I should get a Guinness.

It's good to be Irish, isn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb

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