How to Win a Soda Bread Competition in 7 Easy Steps

This is the true story of how, a couple of years ago, I became a gold medal champion in an Irish soda bread competition, with helpful tips so that you, too, can bring home that coveted award!

~1~

Have a kid or two in Irish dance. I don’t know if the competition will let you in if nobody’s dancing, though I suppose it never hurts to ask.

We’ve had kids in Irish dance for nearly a decade now, so I had my ticket in!

~2~

Research.

Once I was in, I wasn’t doing this halfway. No sir. I wanted to do my dancer proud. I did extensive, careful research on the history of Irish soda bread, variations on the recipe, and what constitutes “proper” and “improper” soda bread. I love food, and especially the history of regional foods, so this was going to be awesome.

My research led me to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. Here I learned that Proper Soda Bread is made with “flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. Anything else makes it a tea cake.”

Perfect. No rookie mistakes at MY first soda bread competition!

~3~

Shop.

Proper ingredients are essential. So, I actually bought some buttermilk, instead of just souring milk with vinegar like usual.

~4~

Prepare.

It was the night before the feis (“fesh” – it’s an Irish dance competition). I had polished my dancer’s two pairs of shoes, printed off her feis schedule, printed directions to the venue, checked her costume, gotten cash for parking, packed her snacks and our lunches, and gone through the checklist for shoes, socks, bobby pins, safety pins, band-aids, competition card holder, sock glue, and a hole punch.. We would be up at 4:30 to curl her hair into ringlets and get there on time. But I still had to…

~5~

Practice.

Yes, sir. No early night for me. I stayed up until 1 am, baking three (or was it 4?) loaves of soda bread, so that I could have a couple of practice loaves, taste one, and choose the one that was the most beautiful, the most perfect, yet also the most rustic. 

~6~

The Big Day

In the hustle and bustle of getting a dancer checked and settled in, you’ll need to be sure to leave time to check in your soda bread entry and scope out the competition.

You may need to look around for a while, if the entry table isn’t obvious. If you can’t find it, ask at the check-in desk. They will stare at you in obvious confusion, before going to find somebody who knows whether where there is a soda bread competition.

Eventually, a harried looking feis volunteer will come grab your soda bread with obvious astonishment. She might be amazed at its rustic perfection, its faithfulness to the historic tradition of soda bread, the way that the cross-shaped score across the top did not rise all crooked in the oven on the fourth try.

Or, she might just be stunned that somebody actually entered the competition.

~7~

Finally, be sure to go check your results at the end of the day. This is your moment to shine.

Like the gal at the check-in table, the lady at the medals table will also stare at you in confusion. After checking the computer, though, and finding that you were the only entry, she will award you your gold medal! No one will be sure what became of your soda bread, but you will be too humiliated exhilarated by your win to care.

You, dance mom, are a champion.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

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2 thoughts on “How to Win a Soda Bread Competition in 7 Easy Steps”

  1. New to your blog. Been there and done that for many, many years. The entire feis thing — and I can’t say that I miss it. We’ve missed many a Thanksgiving for the Oierachtas, and were so happy when it was finally in our state. And we kissed the ground when Nationals were in our home city. We stopped when one was in PC and then was on the high school pom squad instead. The other made it through the first three rounds to qualify for being an instructor, and then she quit to model. But I do miss the days! Not the wigs though. God blessed me the day they learned to put their own wigs on!

    1. We’ve gone through seasons of more dance and less dance, and we’re pretty moderate right now. My daughter was going to get to her first Oireachtas this winter, but we had to move to a different region. She desperately wants to get to one, so I’m sure it’s coming for us! You’re way ahead of us with getting to Nationals. 😉 We’ve been doing this a long time too – my current dancer is 11, but her older sister started it, oh, about 10 years ago. We’ve had somebody or other in dance almost the whole time since! (And I hear you on the wigs, though we keep moving and changing schools, so she keeps not getting around to getting one and I have to curl her hair instead…😬 Thanks for visiting!

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