Saturday, March 3, 2012

Irish Date Bread

I found this recipe in my great-aunt's desk, which, it turns out, is another treasure trove of recipes clipped from newspapers or cobbled together from friends. It's not in my great-aunt's handwriting, so I assume someone gave it to her.

This one's a puzzler. There is nothing inherently Irish about this recipe. Dates? Ireland? Turkey or Israel, maybe, but not Ireland.

The ingredients do not resemble that of either Irish or Irish-American soda bread, so it's not an offshoot of those cousin concoctions. Irish-American soda bread, scone-like and full of raisins and caraway seeds, is nothing like the very bread-like Irish soda bread. The Irish-American version, to state the obvious, is an American adaptation. Both are quite good and I make loaves and loaves of both versions around St. Patrick's Day. This bread is like neither of them.

But what's the fun in being Irish-American if you can't call all that you do "Irish"? My mother labels everything from an angry outburst ("He really got my 'Irish' up") to someone's tendency to keep family secrets ("That's the 'Irish' in him, you know") to a child's inability to keep said family secrets ("He has the 'Irish' whisper") as "Irish."

If someone thinks that a date-nut bread can be "Irish," who am I to question?

And so, in the spirit of adaption and benign ethno-centrism, I trust that somewhere in time or in some Irish-American's imagination this recipe was most Irish.

The first part of the recipe is very, very sweet. If you've ever been to Ireland you know that the Irish are a people with a sweet tooth. So, sure, it's Irish! I boiled the sugar, dates, water, and butter, and I could have eaten that mixture on its own. But I showed enough restraint to proceed with the recipe.

All in all, it turned out great. Who couldn't use another Irish recipe? I get a little tired of being the fifth person to bring an Irish soda bread to the St. Patrick's Day celebration. It's also always nice to have something new to eat when I watch Darby O'Gill and the Little People and that crazy, endless donnybrook scene from The Quiet Man. Or, if you're a bit classier than I am, maybe you just need something to nibble on after church. However you celebrate, try this recipe if you're looking for something different to make for March 17th.

If people ask you if the bread is Irish, just say, "Sure. It said so on the Internet, so it must be true." Say it with a funny accent.

I won't tell. That's the Irish in me, you know.

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