When I first sat down for a meal in the Ecovillage, Una brought out a plate of brown bread in one hand and butter in the other. Whether it was at the dinner table at home or a restaurant, brown bread found their way onto the dinner table each night. Even though brown bread was not the main course of the meal, I treated it as my main dish. Leaving me too full to finish the rest of my meal. Brown bread is easy to make, which is why it has been so popular with the Irish, now and in the past. All you need is, buttermilk, whole wheat flour, white flour, salt and baking soda. However, variations have been made of this recipe. It has even been made into ice cream. The trick to making brown bread is to mix the flour and other ingredients together, lifting it up high and letting it fall into the dish below. This allows the air to get into the ingredients, making it a fluffy and a light bread. Once all your ingredients are mixed in, you have to shape the bread. It is important to move the bread around as little as possible. This is different from making traditional white bread because white bread requires you to play with the dough as much as possible to shape it perfectly. Once your bread is mixed and shaped, a cross is cut into the top of the bread, allowing air to flow throughout the loaf. After it is cooked, your butter is placed on top and it is ready to be enjoyed.
Not only can brown bread be seen alone, before a meal, it can also be seen as a side dish to many main courses. Vegetable soup can be seen on almost every menu in Ireland. Vegetable soup is usually accompanied by a slice of brown bread, unless specified otherwise. The vegetable soup is brought out boiling from the pot straight to the dinner table. Waiting for the soup to cool down, I found myself dunking the brown bread into the vegetable soup. The combination of flavors between the vegetable soup and the brown bread, allowed them to compliment one another perfectly. When all the bread was dunked and eaten, the soup was then cool enough to begin eating with a spoon. Since the Irish love their soup at a boiling hot temperature, the brown bread allowed me to enjoy the warm soup, without burning my throat in the process.
Throughout the trip, I heard my fellow classmates make remarks such as, “Who would have thought brown bread would be so popular.” The reason is that the simple ingredients that are used in brown bread made it an easy meal to make when resources were low during the famine. Since then, brown bread has become an Irish statement food. Everyone has their own unique way to making their own brown bread, making it different each time you eat it. Which is what makes brown bread a unique part of their culture. Every meal you can taste the freshness of each slice of bread. The creamy spread of butter, melting on the surface of the brown bread, makes your mouth water uncontrollably the second the waitress or waiter brings the plate of brown bread over. Recipes are unique to each family, and they have been handed down from generation to generation, each different from one another. Living off the land, allows the people of Ireland to eat healthy, and use their environment to benefit their way of living.