Food Writing Finalist of the Week:
Jane Butterfield, “Magic”
What can be more ordinary than bread. The magic comes when the ordinary is changed into the extraordinary. My recipe for Irish Soda Bread comes from my husband’s mother. She shared it with me when I was first dating my husband. I was determined to make this bread since it was one of his favorite foods. I planned on surprising him with this treat, fresh from the oven, lathered with butter, the aroma filling the house as he arrived for our date. I followed the recipe to a tee. The only problem was that I did not understand the meaning of the word, “scant” as applied to the addition of the quantity of milk. I poured in the whole cup at once . The result was an “I Love Lucy” experience. You see, the process of kneading the dough by hand is critical to the success of the bread. My bread dough was more like thick paste. Never the less I plunged both of my hands into the mixture, confident that it would all come together somehow. The dough covered every finger and stuck to anything that I touched as I tried to extricate myself from the gooey mess. Fortunately this was not the end of the story. Humbly I sought guidance and through persistence, I finally learned the right consistency for a good dough.
Homemade Irish Soda Bread is now one of the most treasured traditions in our family. Whenever I make the bread I feel the presence of Grammie, my husband’s mother. Each of my five children have enjoyed making the bread with me through the years. When the grand kids come to visit they always ask, “Can we make a soda bread today?” I remember when my four year old grandson was just about to knead the bread, he lifted his hands up above his head and he said with all seriousness , “ Okay, I’m goin in!”. Once the bread is in the pan the children remind me to make the baker’s cross on the top of the bread as a special blessing. The aroma of the cooking bread floats through the house calling all to the kitchen to enjoy the fresh bread together.
This is when I enjoy sitting back and savoring the moment. The bread makes present our roots. It combines the past, present and the future. The beauty of the moment is magical. It nurtures the family spirit as well as the body. All of my children have the recipe. I know the creative experience will continue on to the next generation.
Whenever members of the family are expected for a visit the magic and beauty is experienced anew as I am making the bread. I like to have it on the counter waiting for them to arrive. It gives me a joyful sense of anticipation. It is a true north experience for my family. It is not just ordinary bread, but is transformed into a message of love, faith and welcome home
- Jane Butterfield