Friday, March 16, 2007
Erin Go Bragh!
"If you're Irish, come into the parlour
There's a welcome there for you.
If your name is Timothy or Pat
[or Liz , Rise, Aunty, Lukey, Meggie,
Isabelle, Tanya, Jess, Karen,
Tracey, Kelli, Joyce, Stomper, MJD,
Float, Nutmeg, Diana, Ali, Squirrel,
or anyone who regularly lurks around these parts!]
So long as you come from Ireland
[or NZ, Australia, Scotland, the US or England!]
There's a welcome on the mat.
If you come from the Mountains of Mourne,
Or Killarney's lakes so blue,
We'll sing you a song, and we'll make a fuss,
Whoever you are, you're one of us.
If you're Irish, [or any of the above]
This is the place for you!"
With apologies to the unknown author.
I have one cake of soda bread in the oven and another one ready to go. It smells divine! Wish you all could come over to help eat it....
Sometimes, particularly in March[!] the stage-Irishry gets out of hand. The worst offenders are the OC and the YS, each of whom thinks he has the Irish accent nailed! But shure, "Gosh and Begorrah!" I do love it when I get cards from my far flung friends, just because St. Paddy's Day is coming!
I remember the first time my Dad, who worked for Aer Lingus, went to NY for the St. Patrick's Day parade. We never got that excited about it at home. Sure, we might have the day off from school, and we might wander into town to watch the local parade and, guaranteed, mother would buy pins with foil harps and real shamrocks on them, and expect us to wear them, which, in my teenage sophistication, I thought was an embarrassingly uncool display [ who can understand the workings of the teenage mind?] And inevitably St. Patrick's day would fall smack in the middle of Lent. So you couldn't even eat sweets without pangs of guilt.......
But, back to my Dad and the parade on Fifth Avenue. He was flabbergasted to meet people who couldn't find Ireland on the map if their lives depended on it, decked out, nevertheless, from head to toe in garish green outfits that would make any self-respecting Irishman, such as himself, squirm with embarrassment. He was mortified, I think, at the idea, that seemed rampant in the States, that we were a nation of yokels, running around looking for pots of gold at the ends of rainbows.
"They even painted the line down the middle of the avenue green!" he told us in wonderment.
If I do say so myself, that bread smells wonderful---the first is out, the second is in......two different recipes. Of course half the reason they smell so delicious is that they carry me back to my mother's kitchen. It was always great to be done with school for the day, but to come in the door and breathe in the warm inviting smell of freshly baked soda bread was bliss indeed. Not that mother would let us lay into it the way my lot would. You weren't allowed to have any until it was completely cooled, because, she said, it would "sit like a stone in your stomach." Even as a grownup I've never had the willpower to wait. It always tastes best while still warm , so what was that all about??
My grandmother's kitchen, out the road in Ardpatrick, was another haven of great baking aromas. I'm old enough [age has some compensations!] that I can remember the "old house" there, which burned down when I was about six or seven. In the "old house" there was no electricity. Only oil lamps. And water had to be carried in buckets from the spring. And the baking was done over the big open fire in the kitchen. The soda bread would be placed in a big black pot with a lid, and hung over the fire to bake. It was an exacting science, and Granny was the expert. She knew just how high or low to hang it, how vigorous the fire had to be, and whether or not it might be necessary to place some pieces of red hot peat on the lid to provide even heat. All I know is that it smelled like heaven.
So, just in case you'd like to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a few slices of delicious , good-for-you, Irish bread , here's a recipe.
O'Brien's Irish Bread
[from The Star Tribune in Minneapolis]
1 1/2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour [I use 3/4 cup, plus 1/4 cup wheat germ]
1/4 cup dry oat-bran hot cereal
1/4 cup regular rolled oats
2 tblsps sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tblsps soft butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, divided
3 tblsps melted butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Dust baking sheet with flour.
In large mixing bowl, combine flours, dry cereal, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Cut in soft butter.
Stir in 1 1/4 cups buttermilk.
Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, kneading in the bowl as little as possible until dough is moist.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a seven inch round loaf.
Place on a baking sheet.
With a sharp knife cut an "x" on top.
Bake 40-45 mins. until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped with a knife.
Remove to a wire rack and brush with melted butter. Keep your mitts off it for one hour, until completely cool. Wouldn't want you getting stones in your stomach!
This recipe is tried and true, the first one I made today. The second one into the oven was a recipe that I found in the food section of the paper this week. Very similar to the above, with the addition of raisins soaked beforehand in whiskey. Yum. Except....I was so wrapped up in writing this that, having learnt nothing from the Burnt Boiled Eggs Debacle, I missed the timer going off.......at best it will be super crispy, at worst I'll have a new doorstop.
Erin go Bragh means Ireland Forever. One creative interpretation, on a card that arrived this week, showed two Irish colleens. Colleen # 1 has perky boobs and a T-shirt that says "Erin go Bragh". Colleen # 2 has saggy boobs. Her T-shirt says "Erin go Braghless". Groan.
So, whether you identify with Colleen # 1 or Colleen # 2,
"Wishing you walls for the wind
And a roof for the rain
And tea beside the fire.
Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you
And all that your heart might desire."