Preparing for St. Paddy’s Day

While grocery shopping yesterday,  as  the world would be honoring St. Patrick in one day, I bought corned beef and red potatoes and cabbage. I told my family it would be Irish fare on the 17th, and so my husband picked-up a special horse radish cream he loves with corned beef while driving home from work. What would make the meal perfect? I had already bought the rye bread, but for me, St. Paddy’s Day is perfect with Irish soda bread. Last year I brought home a loaf from the local market’s bakery, but it was disappointing. I can make it. I figured I had flour, so I bought a new baking soda while shopping. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain I pulled-out “buttermilk” but dismissed it, so I paid for my items and left the store.

Once home, my son put away the groceries for me and I pulled out my Irish cook book and immediately realized that the little voice in my head was right. I did need buttermilk. I cooked all day yesterday afternoon, not only making my St. Paddy’s day feast with corned beef and red potatoes and carrots and cabbage, but I also made a chicken dish with medium-grain sticky rice and more carrots and stock and fresh sage leaves from my garden. I pan-grilled fresh green beans, and made a double batch of my chocolate brownies to be given as gifts to friends this week.

This morning, after a quick cup of coffee, and after feeding and playing with our freshly-shaven, gussied up dog, I took off for the market. I came home with the buttermilk. I was measuring out the fourth cup of flour, and I was so happy that I had just enough, when I saw a speck of what looked like a tiny piece of packaging in the flour. Hmmmm.

On closer inspection with my magnifying glass, I decided I had better buy some fresh flour. So I tossed the just-measured four cups of flour, baking soda, salt and sugar from my orange mixing bowl into the waste basket. I also discarded the remaining flour package (which I had stored in a zip-lock plastic bag in my pantry). Grabbing my keys and purse, I let my husband know I was off to the store again.

“Why don’t you pick up a loaf of soda bread at Whole Foods?” “Oh,” I answered. “I don’t want to drive to Campbell.” He looks at me and laughs. “Whole Foods is down the street.”

O-H-H-H-H! Right! It opened recently and I toured the market before it opened. They gave each of us a great bag of goodies, too. It’s close enough to walk. He’s chuckling. I’m chuckling.

Not to be deterred, one more run to the store, and now I have new flour – not wrapped in paper, but already sealed in a zip-locked bag, and a fresh sugar.

Four more measured cups of new flour into my washed and dried orange bowl, a teaspoon of baking soda, the sugar, salt, and the baking powder. Baking powder? In a soda bread? Gee, that’s weird. But it’s not a lot, so oh, well.

Wait. Now they want me to add whole wheat flour? They also want me to use rolled oats? I’m perplexed.

My son walks in and I tell him how weird this recipe is.

“Are you sure you’re looking at the right recipe?”

Well, on the left page is a recipe for Irish brown bread. On the right side, bottom, is my recipe for “Nora’s Best Soda Bread.” Oh well. It’s an honest enough mistake. I’ll just forget that I added baking powder and keep making the bread. At least I don’t have to run to the store for whole wheat flour.

My son looks at me. “Did you get enough sleep last night, Mom?” “Yes! I feel great!” My husband steps into the kitchen and realizes I’ve goofed. He says to our son, “She forgot that Whole Foods is down the street!” We’re all laughing now.

The loaf came out pretty well, but you can taste it’s not a pure soda bread. What the heck; I have more buttermilk and flour and everything.

In addition to cooking and running to the store today, I’ve been submitting Hal Roach Irish jokes to my Facebook page. There’s this one Hal Roach joke that really makes me laugh. I’ve been hearing it in my head all day, while walking around the house, and driving, and tossing ingredients into the trash, and walking through the aisles of my grocery store, and waving to the staff who have seen a lot of me these past two days. I’ve been laughing and chuckling all day.

The widow had her husband laid out for the wake, and he had the biggest smile on his face that was ever seen in Ireland. I said to her, “I never saw a corpse with a smile like that. What happened to him?” “Ah, dear God,” she said. “Twas terrible. He was struck eight times by lightning, and he thought he was having his photograph taken.”

“He was struck eight times by lightning, and he thought he was having his photograph taken”? HA! I’m positively guffawing.

So now as I’m waiting for my next loaf of Irish soda bread to come out of the oven, I’m thinking of the punch line, and I can see and hear my husband and son laughing, sure, at my expense, but it was pretty funny, and I’m remembering how the staff at the grocery store looked surprised when they saw me yet again this morning, and I can’t believe I’ve just spent hours making a loaf of bread that I could have picked up down the street and that my whole morning and a chunk of my afternoon has been a fiasco, and I realize that I really do have the luck of the Irish today. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time.

And besides, I can “gift” the first loaf along with the brownies. Who’s gonna know?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Kathleen O’Galagan (Just for today!)

March 17, 2015