Hour Nine: Soda Bread

Hour Nine: Soda Bread

I keep the recipe tucked into a cookbook
a cookbook I rarely use, of old Irish recipes.
This recipe is written
in ballpoint blue ink, just beginning to fade,
on a 5×7 sheet of unlined paper,
paper I recognize as the pad she always used,
kept stored in the kitchen drawer
where pencils, scissors, thimbles,
other odds and ends were tossed.

A fresh loaf of soda bread was always on the table,
one of our staples.
It was served to guests.
It was a late night snack,
a dessert with milky tea,
a quick breakfast with coffee.

Her recipe is not very precise:
1 ½ cups of buttermilk, or a cup of milk and ½ cup of sour cream,
or a cup of sour cream and some milk, or whatever you have on hand.

As many raisins as you like. Maybe a full box.

Bake for an hour or so.
Be sure to cover with tin foil so the top doesn’t burn.

She scrawled it quickly for me,
when I asked her to write it down.
She’d learned it from her mother,
but I hadn’t quite learned it from her,
and I wanted to make it for a St. Patrick’s Day gathering
at school.

And now she’s no longer there to answer the phone,
to repeat directions, to correct my errors.
But I have her words, inscribed on the page,
and I can hear her soft voice
as I follow her steps,
measuring and mixing and kneading just slightly.
Every slice of that bread,
filled with raisins and
dripping with butter
tastes like a visit back home
and I’m back at the kitchen table
with Mom.


“Look in your cupboards and find a food that brings up a childhood memory, and the memory is your prompt” – contributed by Deborah Dalton

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