Our Eating Lives features stories about how food, cooking, and eating have shaped who we are and how we live.
My mother’s mother spoke German but I think she wanted to be Irish and speak Gaelic in that way that we all have a country and a culture that appeals to our soul. She wanted to be Irish because she liked soda bread, and fairy stories, and rejoiced in the color green. She loved making hot cross buns. She visited Ireland in her 60s and loved “the whole kit and kaboodle” as she called it.
The sort of Irish soda bread she made is (if you want to get technical) more like what would be called cake in Ireland, it was what we’d call now “Irish-inspired” Irish soda bread. It was butter-tastic, and buttermilk-bountiful, studded with currants, made sweet in the warm, slightly exotic way of caraway seeds which in my opinion always smell like a party in the frozen far north where people wear velvet cloaks. Caraway seems regal.
I’ve had real Irish soda bread and I want to like it because, you know, it’s authentic, and I’m all for my artisan Irish baker, but I’m always like, meh. This doesn’t taste like my German grandmother’s Irish soda bread. So traditional recipes won’t do it. I’m making her bread. It tastes like what she wanted from Ireland and that was a rich, fantastic other way of being in the world, of weltschmerz that had room for rainbows.