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Bread Banter: Soda Bread Recipes and a Peek Into Irish Culture

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by April Gertler
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These books are from a limited, hand-numbered printing of 200, each of them signed on the back cover by the author.

This fascinating, joyous, and complex book acknowledges the resonance of soda bread in Ireland, in particular around Dublin and Cork. It pairs recorded oral testimony with handwritten recipes which are reproduced in full.

Artist April Gertler interviewed a variety of people in those areas to prepare for a lecture/baking performance in October 2022. Some, such as Darina Allen, JR Ryall, and Mick O’Shea are nationally recognized as cooks and bakers. But most are ordinary folk, many of them recalling their family soda bread and kitchens; others rediscovering it as part of their pandemic baking.

Precisely what soda bread is seems highly individual. Whatever it may be, it serves as a launching point for many types of memories, some avidly practical, some nostalgic. Dearbhla Clarke of Dublin says: 

“I have lots of memories of the smells of it, maybe even more than the taste. It’s a really strong memory from both of my grandmother’s houses…. There was always Soda Bread there and ideally it was warm. That is why you would often see it made. I think they would be making it so you could enjoy it together.”

Reading Bread Banter, one wonders how much richer the world would be with other similar books on traditional foods and the people who made and make them.


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