There’s something magical about Irish soda bread.
What makes it magical? Certainly not the ingredients. Flour, both baking soda and powder, salt, sugar. They’re all very humble with only raisins for flair and there’s not much flair there. Of course, there is buttermilk, but does that rise to magic?
Is it the preparation? Only fifteen minutes from the first scoop of flour to opening the oven door with no kneading required, so that’s not it. Forty-five minutes to bake. You could even, as the recipe suggests, measure out the dry ingredients the night before. But let’s admit it. No one is being sawed in half here.
Special equipment needed? Nope. You don’t need more than a wooden spoon to stir it, so no need to lug that Kitchen-Aid onto the counter. You’re told to bake it in an iron frying pan, which most houses have. Since I give most of mine away, mini-loaf pans come in quite handy. See? Nothing up my sleeve.
Part of the alchemy is the once-a-year-ness to it. Though certainly my ancestors ate it more regularly, I only make it for Saint Patrick’s Day. Tonight my husband will make corned beef and potato pancakes as his contributions for the occasion. We don’t do “Irish potatoes” or wear “Kiss me. I’m Irish” pins, which would be silly for him because he’s technically not, but we always mark the day.
That the recipe was handed down to me from a former co-worker is also part of its charm. She used to tell me stories of her grandmother who had come over from the old country. She’s long since retired, but I think of her every time I make it and wish she weren’t. It’s irrational I know, but recipes I’ve gotten from friends and family taste just a little bit better than those found in magazines or on the Web. They’re talismans I won’t trade for the world.
The big abracadraba for me is seeing loved ones eat this treat. This morning my goddaughter slathered so much butter on her slice that it looked like a cupcake. That she thought it was made of soda pop is no matter. She loved it just the same. I love that her family and others count on me to bake it for them every year. It connects me not just to my heritage but those I choose to count as my family as well.
There’s so much we can’t control about our lives, but we can inject a bit of magic into it every now and then. And that’s no blarney.
I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge. Won’t you join me?