“When you make friends with the present moment, you feel at home no matter where you are. When you don’t feel at home in the Now, no matter where you go, you will carry unease with you.” Eckert Tolle from Stillness Speaks
Gotcha, Eckert. No really, I understand what you’re saying. You believe in the power of Now and you believe that one can’t think that a future moment is more important than this moment; otherwise, there is a constant feeling of unease or discontent. But I also believe that it can be kind of nice to be nostalgic for a time or place, (who doesn’t love to look at old photos?) and it’s even more fun to be hopeful about the future (how many more days until my next vacation?). So with all these deep ideas in mind, I would like to think that bringing a little bit of Dublin into my home is healthy. And I also want to believe that planning my next trip to the old sod is a special version of Zen.
So yes, I maintain that I’m happy in the Now here in my house in New Hope. But I want to be just a tiny bit happier by bringing the atmosphere of Dublin into the air I’m breathing now, so with that in mind I’m going to try to make a loaf of brown bread. (I hope Eckert Tolle can accept my way of looking at the world as I accept his.) I’m wondering if attempting to make Irish brown bread in Pennsylvania is as futile as an Irish woman in Dublin trying to make a Philadelphia soft pretzel or a Tastykake, two things that simply cannot be duplicated outside of the city that loves them. Quite possibly it might be just as hopeless, but I’m willing to try. So I look through my cookbooks and I finally find a recipe in my The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook that seems like it might do the trick. In Ireland bread is frequently made at home. Irish bread does not require yeast, so with a bit of baking soda it is easy to make quickly risen bread that is dense and delicious. Or at least that’s what the directions promise. The very dark brown bread from Fallon and Byrne is the ideal that I’m trying to recreate, so the recipe that I’m counting on contains molasses. The total list of ingredients includes all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, salt, baking soda, buttermilk, and molasses. I mix all of the ingredients until a dough forms. I put the oval on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and cut a deep cross on the top. And in only thirty-five minutes I have a gorgeous loaf of bread. It’s warm, thick, and substantial and for my second wedge I add Kerrygold butter (you can find it at Trader Joe’s) and lemon curd. And I ask myself how I’ve been able to live this long without this stuff. And no, it doesn’t look or taste like the dark brown bread I was coveting, but it doesn’t really matter. I have a unique slice of Dublin on my plate. (But just as a matter of curiosity, how does one get that dark brown color? Is it just a matter of adding more molasses? To my Irish friends, please advise!)
So I’ve got my only-slightly-brown brown bread and I’m happy now in the Now. And it all reminds me of the last time I went into Marks and Spencer on Grafton Street to get a bag of prawn cocktail crisps. (In Ireland French fries are called chips and potato chips and called crisps.) When I didn’t see the crisps on the shelf I asked the clerk, “Do you not have prawn cocktail crisps?” And the young man answered, “Aye we do – just not today. But I’ll show you where the small bags are. Sure the little one will hold you over.” And he does show me where the little bags are, and I buy two, and I am indeed hopeful that they will in fact “hold me over” until the big bags return, just as I am hopeful that my homemade bread along with my books, music, and memories will hold me over until my next trip to Dublin.