Oct 28, 2009

A Barm Brack Confession

Santa brought me an accordion one year. I was young, but old enough to realize that an accordion was a big-girl gift. Unfortunately, I wasn't big-girl enough to realize that I shouldn't take my accordion apart. Now, this would be a great story if I had grown up to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but, well, I didn't. When I took the screwdriver to my accordion, it wasn't because I was curious, I was bored. I didn't want to know how things worked so I could invent things myself—there just wasn't anything on telly that day.

My first lie (that's a lie, too)
My mother had me enrolled in accordion classes in Clarecastle Hall—classes she could no more afford than that fancy accordion and its fancy accordion case. I thought about telling my mother that my older brother had used the dryer for one pair of jeans while she was at work and by-the-way-I-had-broken-my-accordion, or that I had dismantled my accordion in a fit of scientific curiosity, but I knew she'd see through me. She'd ask me to stick out my tongue to see if I was lying, and if she saw a black spot, I'd see the wooden spoon, or the hurley, or worse—the brush.
So I did what any decent downstanding kid would do; I lied.


I got ten-out-of-ten in spellings, but I was a monster
Every week I tottered off up the road to class with my fancy accordion case and my mother waved to me from the door, proud as punch. At class, I stashed my case in the bathroom and told my teacher I'd left my accordion at my grandmother's house. As I grew better at telling tales, I also grew horns on my head and knots in my stomach. I would bang away on the nuts, bolts, and keys up in my room so that my mother thought I was just a slow learner—but at least I was trying, and then at class I'd watch other kids (who probably had satellite TV so they didn't have to break shit for kicks) bang away on their accordions in class.

Stress is a recent condition in Ireland; In my day it was misdiagnosed as gout or Mad Cow's Disease
I got sick. The doctor came out to the house and couldn't figure out what in the name of God was ailing me. They tried everything—asprin, fresh air, Lucozade—but I was in bad shape. My poor mother was very worried; my grandmother did rounds of the well. One day, as my mother sat at my bedside lighting candles, I confessed; I broke my accordion.
It was like the weight of the world was lifted off my evil shoulders. I cried and cried and apologized and cried some more, and seeing that my mother felt awful that I'd made myself sick with worry (and deceit), I asked for a pair of Dock Martins.

The monster bakes
I've been sick again. All week I've been worrying that the barm brack cake I have been attempting to perfect is not authentic. I've been sick to death with worry (and bingeing on last week's barm brack).
This morning, as I prepared to bake my final and perfect barm brack, I cracked.
I'm cheating! It's not authentic! A barm brack is supposed to be a yeasted bread! I need new shoes!
I immediately decided to bake an authentic yeast-driven barm brack. Then I remembered that yeasted breads take FOREVER to rise and ten minutes to knead and I don't have forever-and-ten-minutes before Halloween.
I decided to buy a bread machine. I spent an hour reading bread-machine reviews. Would we consume two pounds of bread a day? Did I want a power-failure backup? I spent another hour doing the math. Then I read bread-machine cookbook reviews. Maybe I should buy organic flour, too? I decided to pay for overnight shipping. I could bake Barm bracks for everyone I know before Halloween. I'd even design clever tags to explain the tokens baked inside.

I ditched my virtual cart and ran.
My kids hate yeast—think they might even be allergic to it. Someone might die if I use yeast. And I'm sure it's bad for the environment!
I bailed on my bread machine and on a yeasted brack.

So, here I am. Don't judge me people. I will bake a barm brack today, and maybe it won't fully rise to the occasion, but it'll be an honest loaf of bread.

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