Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh, the Irishness of me!

The view from any given road in Ireland. Simple. Beautiful. Simply Beautiful.
   Until recently we believed that my great-great-grandmother immigrated here from Ireland. Thanks to my mother and we now know that's not true. Mary McCartney was most certainly Irish but not not 'off the boat' Irish. Her parents, or grandparents, or somebody (I'm not mom may be able to comment and clear this up) were from Ireland. Or she married a guy from Ireland. Or something--somewhere there is an Irish connection. Because of Mary McCartney I used to claim to be 1/16th Irish, which I know doesn't sound like much but back in the day if a person was 1/16th African-American it was enough to be enslaved. Soooo...clearly, 1/16th is a lot! However, now that the Irishness of Mary is somewhat in question, I'm not sure the math is correct anymore. At any rate, I've got enough Irish blood to get extremely excited about Saint Patrick's Day, Ireland, and Irishness in general.

In a very, very old garden at Huntingdon Castle in Ireland.

So of course today I had to wear green--and orange because I'm a protestant. I've even got my green St.Patty's day socks on! And I'm frustrated that I didn't have time to bake my traditional Irish soda bread. Now, plain soda bread is like 'blech! disgusting!'....but this is the most yummy, delicious, mouth-watering receipe for soda bread ever in the history of the Irish soda bread universe. Seriously. I usually make it for Thanksgiving, too, because it's just so yummy. I'll share the recipe at the end of the post with a couple hints and tips I've learned making it the last couple years.

So tomorrow I plan on making my soda bread and watching 'The Quiet Man'. I watched it for first time two years ago and couldn't believe I'd survived 24 years without this amazing movie. It's not exactly like 'Gone With the Wind' or 'It's a Wonderful Life' amazing but for Irish enthusiasts it absolutely must be included in the collection. And at our next Ladies' Craft Night at church I want to fix my scrapbook of my trip to Ireland. When I graduated high school my uncle took my great-aunt and me to London and Ireland. It was such an amzing experience and I loved every second of it. I made a scrapbook with all my photos and brochures and ticket stubs but there's a few pages that turned out all smudgy and lame. I really want to fix it up and make it all beautiful.

At one of the many places in Ireland said to be
where St.Patrick baptized people.

Today I'm brought in some Irish music, my scrapbook (smudgy pages and all), some books about Ireland, and a book of Irish fairytales to share with my students. So you can see, my Saint Patrick's Day celebration isn't patricularly exciting but it is still enthusiastic. I don't think its possible to be Irish (even just a smidge) and not be enthusiastic about it.

Irish Spiced Soda Bread 
Cook Time: 40 minutes
·        3 cups raisins
·        2 cups water
·        3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
·        2 teaspoons baking soda
·        2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
·        1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I usually do a 1/2 tsp because nutmeg is strong)
·        1 teaspoon salt
·        1/2 teaspoon allspice (I usually do a full tsp allspice because I really like it)
·        1/2 cup butter
·        1 1/2 cups sugar
·        3 eggs, beaten
·        1 cup liquid from soaking raisins
In a saucepan, combine raisins and water; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes; drain and reserve 1 cup of liquid (if not enough liquid left, add a little water to make 1 cup). Set raisins and reserved liquid aside.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and allspice. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add eggs and the raisin liquid and mix until well blended. Stir in dry ingredients until blended; add raisins. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool soda bread in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

I don't have 2 bread pans so I've used a round cake pan and a muffin tin. The muffin tin works beautifully although it bakes through faster so you have to keep an eye on them. But a muffin is the perfect serving size for this bread and it makes it so easy to just grab one and enjoy. And, my husband is not a big fan of raisins, so you can make one loaf with raisins and one loaf without (still using the raisin liquid but not the raisins themselves).

So in closing for this St. Patrick's Day post...I leave you with my favorite Irish blessing.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow
Of His hand. 

The rolling hillside atop the Cliffs of Moher

(PS...I will give anyone 5 bonus points for knowing which book the title of this blog is derived from. Googling won't help as it's not a direct quote, I changed one word....comment with your guesses!!)


  1. Mary McCartney's grandparents (her father's father) were the immigrants. So it's still a true line - her grandfather and grandmother, then her father who married an Irish girl - so Mary was indeed "Irish-American." I looked lovingly and longingly at her picture yesterday. I'm still digging so I might find out more - at least now I know she grew up on the Hudson - another beautiful place. OK - it's not Ireland but what is?

  2. Thanks, Mom...I couldn't remember what you told me about her. :)


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