Tag Archives: Irish traditions

On Friendship

Or, how I nearly baked my wedding ring…

Yesterday, two of my oldest friends came to visit me.  We hadn’t seen one another for a while, but that was no impediment to the banter and conversation that flowed all morning – we’ve been friends since our early teens, and they’re pretty much family to me at this stage.  Both my friends are baking enthusiasts, like me (though they’re far more advanced than I, of course), and so, early yesterday, I started work on my baked treats – I wanted to get some baking feedback from expert tasters, but also I just wanted to make a fuss of my visitors.  One of my friends is allergic to most known forms of food, however, which makes life fiendishly difficult for her; she manages to cope with it heroically, though, and she’s a selfless baker, making all sorts of gorgeousness for other people which she can’t eat herself.  It meant that a lot of the baked treats I was making were no use to her at all, and I had to be very careful with regard to what I could make for her.  It was important to be mindful of not cross-contaminating her food with anything she’s allergic to, like gluten or dairy products.  Spelt bread (dairy-, egg-, gluten- and yeast-free) seemed like the obvious answer, and once I’d got the go-ahead from her, I got cracking.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever baked spelt bread before, but the dough is very gloopy and sticky – quite a bit stickier and gloopier than regular bread dough.  At least, the way I make it, it is!  I was mixing my dough together with my hands, sort of ‘vacant and in pensive mood’, when I realised that something wasn’t quite right.  I narrowed the problem to my left hand, and then to my wedding-ring finger.  I glanced down at my hand to find it freed of my wedding ring, and realised that the dough had managed to suck it right off my hand!  Cue several minutes of rooting through the dough in order to find my only piece of precious jewellery/symbol of my marriage; I eventually found it, rinsed it, and put it right back where it should be.  If I hadn’t noticed (which could easily have happened, as I was busy and preoccupied), my wedding ring could easily have had a trip to the oven; hopefully, it would have emerged from the bread unscathed, and all would have been well.  I told my friends about this once the bread had been safely eaten (and pronounced delicious, by the way), and they roared with laughter, making me promise that it would be the subject of today’s blog.  So, here it is!  I’m a woman of my word…

It’s interesting that this happened in October, though, because (as my friend Sarah pointed out) this is the time of year in Ireland when rings are traditionally baked into bread and cakes.  There’s a type of food which we call ‘brack’ (or sometimes ‘barn brack’) which is like a bread/cake hybrid into which a ring is baked around Hallowe’en, and whoever gets the ring in their portion – assuming they don’t choke to death on it, of course – is supposed to get married before the year is out.  I remember the thrill of eating brack as a child, hoping even then to get the ring in my slice.  It did happen once, while I was in the company of my cousins, and the teasing was unmerciful – but I was secretly pleased, and I cherished the ring for a long time despite the fact that it was only a piece of worthless metal which turned green almost immediately after it was removed from the cake.  I’m not sure if my childish desire to find the ring was about being ‘the winner’, or about a fascination with the idea of being married – perhaps it was a bit of both.

It was such a funny intersection of my young life and my old(er) life yesterday, then, when I nearly baked my actual wedding ring into a bready cake during the month of October.  It makes me feel like the dream I’ve cherished since my childhood has finally come to pass, and I think the little girl who found the ring in her brack all those years ago would have smiled to see my frantic searching through the dough yesterday morning.  I’m glad it happened on a day when I was seeing two of my oldest and dearest friends, women who I’ve known since we were all girls; we’ve grown up together, gone through school, university and early adulthood together, shared joys and troubles all down through the years, and weathered the storms that come with friendships that endure for nearly two decades (so far).  It was a wonderful treat to see them yesterday and it’s brilliant to have friends who make you feel like a teenager again – without the moodiness, spots and pressures of school, that is!  I hope they read this blog today, and that they know how much I love them and how proud I am of both of them.  I’m raising a cup of tea in your honour, ladies!