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