I still have the same dream as when I was fourteen. I’m flying in a plane and it is raining outside, I stare lazily like a cat. We’re heading to Nova Scotia and it sounds magical and foreign and we never land. Always in the air, always anticipating something you’ve heard before, but can’t pinpoint exactly where. It’s a silly dream, pointless. I am not sure what to make of it other than those two words. I think the same thing when my mother tells me what she got at the grocery store. I think the same thing when I tell Nolan what I did the day before, rehearsing the call before I make it in my head. Always mundane, always ordinary, just to hear myself. And maybe my subconscious is doing the same–just wanted to think, to be remembered its there, waiting, powerless during the day. And when I think like that, about what my mind wants me to know, how I may have forgotten a part of who I am, I’ll wake up, a little damp with sweat, and check the time on my phone. Sometimes it’s witching hour, sometimes it’s ten in the morning. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, because before I can even set my phone down, I’m asleep again, dreaming of that first bite of cold mug on cold lips, and how the warm coffee cuts into that bitter cold with its own brand of percolated bitterness. And then I wake up, ready for breakfast. I’ve forgotten anything I dreamt about. And my subconscious remains in that liminal space of wandering and wondering, of ghost of myself, cutting itself, pleading to Heathcliff to let it in, let it in.
And I wake up hungry, so hungry. This week you can see indents below my cheekbones; I haven’t done a lot of eating lately. Too tired at night, to busy during the day. Too lazy to make myself even a bowl of cereal. Not concerned enough of my own well-being when I don’t have anyone to live with to remind me to do the menial tasks of eating, sleeping, calming down before the blow-up and the breakdown. And I’ve been sick with a cough that won’t go away, my throat a little raw, my voice a little rough on the vowels. I’ve drank more tea this week than I have in years.
And one morning when I was feeling particularly hungry, particularly awake, I made bread. A simple bread, a quick bread. An Irish soda bread. Simple, almost more cake than bread, it chewed easily and satisfied my empty stomach, my thoughts of an empty bed and an empty life. I’ve written before about the transformative power of bread, and when I pulled the loaves out of the oven, nothing mattered but that first bite. Not my mind, my cold, my job, or my relationship–just the warm and delicate crumb that fell over my flannel shirt as I stood hunched over the stove, eating it tenderly with my bare hands.
Enjoy this soda bread with some caramelized onion compound butter. Enjoy your week.
Irish Soda Bread with Caramelized Onion Soda Bread (yields two loaves)
Ingredients for the bread:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt (i, again, used smoked salt–not necessary)
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 325 and prepare two 9″x5″ loaf pans with parchment paper and butter or oil.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, sugar, and salt together a few times. I like to do this to ensure they are all mixed, but also to give it a lighter texture for a quick bread like this, that can sometimes be dense with moisture
- In a small saucepan, melt butter and set aside to cool briefly
- In a measuring cup, measure out buttermilk. Add egg and cooled melted butter. Whisk together until all a pale yellow.
- With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, create a well in the dry ingredients. Slowly begin pouring in wet ingredients, making sure all dry is moistened and a dough/batter begins to form
- Distribute evenly into prepared loaf pans and bake for 70 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow to cool a little, and enjoy with caramelized onion butter!
Ingredients for the Onion Butter
- 1/2 a stick of butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, for onions
- 1/2 one yellow onion, chopped
- Pinch of sea salt
- In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter or heat olive oil on medium-low heat
- Add onion and let cook down for 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly
- Set aside and allow to cool
- In a food processor, mix room temperature butter and onions, occasionally scraping sides and bottom with a rubber spatula to ensure homogeneously mixed.
- Lay out plastic wrap on a flat surface, and use spatula to scoop mixture into center. Shape roughly into a log and then roll plastic wrap around butter, twisting the edges like candy to create a firm log shape. Allow to firm up in fridge before serving.