Soda Bread and Sadness like a Pond

This bread, though humble, is symbolically laden. It’s both an ode to the past and an offering to the present. It’s inspired by my memory of a bread I used to bake with my ex-boyfriend, yet distinctly divergent in that it’s laden with dairy, to which he is allergic.

The seventh is his birthday, which I am, for obvious reasons, not celebrating with him, as I was once sure I would. But that awareness brings his memory, and other parts of the past, close by. There was more to my sadness than leaving Ethan, spread out over more time than our break-up and made up of the myriad ways in which one can doubt and hurt oneself, but losing some one I never meant to lose sticks out as a low point in the whole affair. Today I am thinking about how we let go…of people, of certainties, of pain and self-defeat.

From Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh © 2011

The last five months of my life have been my own rendition of (the incredible) Allie’s Adventures in Depression. Instead of doing nothing and mocking myself for doing nothing, I make myself busy and then mock myself for producing nothing that seems worthwhile. It feels about the same, though, I’d wager. Our stories end a bit differently, too. For me, their was no homeless Eskimo aha! moment, no junk food and horror movie defiance. It was more like the surface of a pond’s transition from winter to spring.

Slowly, slowly, the ice thins. Until one day it cracks. And then it fragments. Time passes, and each fragment melts. Until, without a certainty from one moment to the next that it had happened, the barrier has gone. The pond is fluid once more.

I guess the fish are feeling sunshine again over here. I don’t know where sadness goes when it leaves, or heartache either. They never disappear completely, and I anticipate that they’ll come back at some future time, unexpected and unwanted. But at the moment, I’m just grateful that the places I hoped I’d never reach again don’t last forever, and that the edges of the past become less jagged in their own time.

Recipe and further food thoughts after the jump…

Cheesy, Whole Wheat, Beer Bread

This dish is a spin on Irish Soda Bread, more tender and a bit more savory than the typical approach. In addition to its other traits, this bread is homey in the utmost. A good way to ease back in to feeling comforted by life, or to revel in that comfort, if it hasn’t deserted you recently.

Cheesy, beer-y, wheaty…do I need more adjectives? Salty, chewy, earthy. There you have it– go make some bread!

Serves 6-8 as a side or snack

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces grated sharp cheddar and/or gruyère

3/4 cup stout beer

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Parchment and grease a baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter to the texture of coarse meal. Mix in the grated cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together the beer, buttermilk, and egg. Add the wet mix to the rest of the ingredients and mix until fully combined using a wooden spoon.

The dough will be wet, but should hold its shape. In the bowl, pat the dough into a round. Flour your hands and transfer the round onto the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep X into the top of the boule. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is solid and just beginning to brown.

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