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RBR Tailgating: Irish Soda Bread

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I do hate baking, but it’s hate week so I soldier on.

Driving in Ireland is terrifying if you are from a civilized, right-side-of-the-road-driving nation.

It gets easier if you stop thinking about which side of the road you should be on and focus on keeping yourself and the steering wheel in the middle. That makes it less likely that you clip a telephone pole and take out a side mirror on your rental car, which may or may not have happened (repairs for such were 113 pounds back in 02 and the insurance was 112, so if you didn’t get insurance, which we may or may not have gotten, you’ve lost.)

If you do go to Ireland, I highly recommend a day driving around The Ring of Kerry. It’s a very well travelled touristy route with six or so picturesque villages where you can stop and shop and wander around looking at brightly colored doors. But do it the right way, which is to say the left way.

The road around The Ring of Kerry is narrow and there are multiple turns where on one side is a lovely drop into a sheep filled Byron-esque wonderland and on the other is a sheer cliff blinding you from awareness of oncoming traffic. And you are on the wrong side of the road.

One thing to note is that the tour busses run widdershins, which would have been great to know. We were driving clockwise, so instead of being frustrated that we were occasionally stuck behind a lane encroaching beast of a vehicle we’d get an adrenal treat as one popped around a corner unannounced and forced us either within a hairs breadth of scraping our mirrorless Honda up on an outcropping or sending us rolling down some lovely greenery into a herd of sheep.

If you are going to drive on the wrong side, it suits you drive in the right way. We did not.

After a particularly harrowing stretch of overconfident bus riders and absurdly narrow lanes we stopped in a pub for lunch. I don’t remember the name of the town or village or whatever but there were multiple boats anchored across the way and there was the deep quiet of a place that, despite the buses, had grown accustomed to being undisturbed.

I can’t remember what the stout was there – as you move across Ireland you find yourself in fiefdoms controlled by Guinness, McCaffery’s, or Beamish – but we got a round. The place was BBC stark. When you watch British television and they have community centers or small gathering places you note that, across the pond, card tables aren’t just for seating kids at Thanksgiving. It was that type of place. Cheap seats and probably some decent wood paneling with stained and worn puke orange carpets. We didn’t care. There were no busses barreling at us from around the hallway to the bathroom. They had beer and the promise of food.

We didn’t look at the menu. We made a joke to the publican that we were hungry and he told us he had just what we needed. He came out with a few plates and a cutting board with soda bread, smoked salmon, and butter and we were less than impressed. That was until we ate.

The simple can be the best.

I have an easy Irish soda bread recipe. Baking is dangerous and the stuff of witches so you need precision and should avoid fun while preparing it but I go with 3 ½ cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tbsp. kosher salt, ½ cup buttermilk, and a hope and dream that I had any more use for the ½ quart buttermilk I bought outside of a bit of crème fraiche because I just have very few uses for the stuff.

Mix it all together and then form it into a ball and put it on an ungreased baking sheet. You want to cut a cross into the top so as it cooks it starts to look like Max from Where the Wild Things Are. Throw it in a preheated oven at 425° and tell yourself that it will be ready in 35 minutes even though it sometimes takes up to 45 minutes – I don’t know, witches and such.

Slice it thick, lather it with butter, and top with a few slices of salmon. It’s amazing and simple and you feel like a ploughman after a hard day’s work even if you just woke up from the early SEC formerly Jefferson Pilot eleven o’clock game mid third quarter nap.

It’s hate week, so I feel bad for no one on the UT side usually, but there is one person I have sympathy for now.

Kerry Stevenson was our director of player development. He excelled for six years under Saban and by all I can find online, he’s a great guy. But he took the same position at Tennessee. He went from Alabama to Tennessee.

Like me, he went in the wrong direction and there he is with the puke orange carpets about to be hit by a bus. Ireland is different from Tennessee. There will be no rings for Kerry.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.