Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's the day we celebrate the most depressed nation on earth. And beer. We all wear green and eat corned beef and cabbage—whether we are Irish or not. I am. Both of my parents have Irish ancestry; not much, but enough to count. Nick also has some Irish in him.

I think this holiday should be about loving your enemies. Really, what could be more fitting? There are very few people in history who showed more love—real love, sacrifice and patience for his enemies than St. Patrick.
Imagine, a young man—still more of a boy, only fourteen years old. Old enough to start looking into things and question his beliefs. His name wasn't even Patrick, it was some British thing that I can't pronounce. His parents had hopes that he would enter the church, and he began to rebel. Legends tell us that he was at a party, a ceremony of animal sacrifice to a pagan god, when Irish pirates attacked. He was captured and sold as a slave.

We have been taught to hate slavery; they tell us that here in America we fought a whole war over it (I won't get into that issue here). Don't get me wrong, slavery is evil. And slaves are almost justified if they hate their owners. But Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and St. Patrick took that to heart. After he escaped, he studied and was ordained a priest. He kept thinking about Ireland and her people, and after he was ordained a bishop he went back.

That's a little much, even for most Christians. That he would go and care for the people who owned him, probably beat him and treated him like dirt. At the least most of us would avoid people like that. Patrick walked among them, taught them, healed them—he loved them.

Today we celebrate him, and all that he has done for the Church and for Ireland. Today, everyone is Irish. Erin go Braugh!

Irish Soda Bread

3 tbsp soft butter
2 ½ c flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/3 c raisins
¾ c buttermilk

Cut butter into flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in raisins and enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Shape into round loaf. About 6 ½ inches in diameter. Place on greased cookie sheet. Cut an X about ¼ of the way through the loaf. Bake at 375 degrees, about 35 to 45 minutes, or till golden brown.

This is the second time that I've made this recipe, and the second time that I've bombed it. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong; but the bread just won't get done in the middle. Perhaps I'm making the loaf too tall before I bake it. It rises while it's baking, and I think it just ends up too tall and heavy to cook all the way. This time I ended up cutting it into quarters to let it finish cooking. Then I realized something: Soda Bread should probably end up like biscuits. Bouncy, soft and crumbly. I think that in addition to making it too tall I'm also cooking it too long.

I went back and read what I wrote about St. Patrick. He strikes me as being of the same calibre of saint that Francis was, filled with the same fire of love.

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