Luck of the Irish

Here, our writer Melissa Baron dishes up a fun, informative taste of the week. She may also slip in a health tidbit from time to time, because #balance. 


When I was in kindergarten, on Saint Patrick’s Day our teacher had us create leprechaun-spotting binoculars. These high tech glasses were made from two toilet paper tubes and green plastic wrap (two thumbs up for Glad®’s marketing team who just had to participate in a holiday trend).

Anyway, we constructed our binoculars and started scanning the 1990s decorated classroom for any sign of those sneaky buggers. My teacher would look with us then randomly point and shout, “I think I see one! I think I see one!” All of us five-year-olds would freak the eff out and swing our heads all over the place to try to see where she was pointing.

Alas, while I never did find a leprechaun, I found something better—carbs. After our unsuccessful search for the ‘lil creatures, we sat down to a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day snack to refuel —Irish soda bread. And every year since, I’ve either baked or bought this simple, yet satisfying traditional Irish bread.

Yeast ye forget, this bread is made with baking soda instead of yeast, hence the name (and hence the pun). The acid from another key ingredient, buttermilk, reacts with the base of the baking soda to leaven the bread.

The traditional bread also includes raisins (quick PSA on raisins: YOU'RE ALL ADULTS SO JUST EAT THE FRIGGIN RAISINS) and/or caraway seeds, an earthy-flavored spice.  

A cross was cut on the top of the bread before baking to ward off evil spirits (so it should probably work on my upstairs neighbors) and was cooked in a cast iron frying pan over an open hearth. For those of us who have an electric hearth, this bread can be easily baked on a baking sheet. No bread maker required! Try this recipe from Simply Recipes. The bread will last 2-3 days so I give you permission to eat multiple slices in one sitting.

Or, if you need an authentic loaf,  stat, head down to Greenhills Bakery, one of the few traditional Irish bakeries in the area, in Dorchester. Just don’t go after 4 pm (like we did) because they close at that time during the winter (Google, you deceitful beast, you). If you arrive after 4 pm, go next door to Adams Corner Cafe & Butcher, to pick up a loaf of soda bread, or Irish candy, some sausage, and yes, potatoes.