Traditional Irish soda bread is made plain, without sugar or raisins.
You might call this a pre St. Patrick’s Day post, except here in Boston I’m a little bit late. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations start the weekend before March 17 because there just simply isn’t enough time to get in all the Irish-related festivities in just a day or two. We may not dye our river green the way Chicago does, but this is still the home of the Boston Celtics. Plus, we are geographically closer to Ireland than Chicago, so I think this qualifies us as more authentically Irish-American than our Midwestern cousins. Somehow.
I’ve only been to the St. Patty’s Day parade in South Boston once, right around the height of Riverdance mania and Southie-based “Good Will Hunting” winning an Oscar. It was fun with lots of kelly green shamrocks fluttering in the breeze, high stepping Irish dancers on flatbeds being towed by trucks, and waving Irish-American politicians. But once was enough, really. I mostly duck and cover on St. Patrick’s Day because the crowds rival those of New Year’s Eve.
Baking traditional Irish soda bread is a quieter, humbler way to celebrate the day. I think St. Patrick, who is said to have used the three-petaled shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, might have approved of the breaking of bread as way to mark his contributions to his countrymen.