Residence: Forest Hills, New York
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23
Primary Language: English
Recipe for Faherty Irish Soda Bread
3 cups flour 1 cup raisins
½ cup sugar ¼ pound butter (less 1 tbs) – room temp
1 shake nutmeg 2 eggs
3 tsp baking powder 1 cup milk
3 tsp caraway seeds
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour 8” round cake pan. Mix all ingredients together by hand or bread hook (if using machine).
Bake for 55 minutes.
From the informant: “I learned the recipe from my mother Rosalie Faherty. She learned it from her childhood friend’s Mom. The recipe originally was in terms like a saucer of this and a pinch of that. She had to convert it to cups and tablespoons. I first made the Irish bread in high school, and since I have made it every St. Patrick’s Day that I can remember. My mother used to make up to a couple dozen on St. Patrick’s Day, but now me and my eight siblings make it and make about thirty collectively each year.”
My mom taught me this recipe, too, but I never cooked it on my own this year. I never even had the recipe written down until I asked my mom for the formal one – it’s often taught from person to person. I thought it would be perfect for this project, so I asked her a bit more about it. It’s widely known in my family as our go to family dish.
I grew up eating this Irish bread each and every year on St. Patty’s Day. Living north of Boston, other neighbors would leave Irish soda bread on our porch, and we would leave some on theirs. I would take it to class, my parents would take it to work, and it really signified the Irish holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. This specific recipe was taught to me by my mother when I was in high school, and I would occasionally help her cook it. Similarly, her mother, my grandmother, taught it to her when my mother was just a child. Interestingly, even after all this time, I had always just thought that the recipe originated with my family. This class made me speculate that wasn’t true; recipes don’t just appear out of thin air. After my interview I found out that my grandmother actually learned it from her friend, and my grandmother was the one to translate this “folk dish” into an actual measured recipe.
Therefore, the dish that my family feels identifies ourselves is actually only two generations removed from another family. Additionally, while it was my grandmother that authored the recipe, she herself is not Irish. In fact, she’s the only grandparent of mine that isn’t 100% Irish; that I associate my Irish identity with a recipe that was from another family, authored by a woman who isn’t at all Irish, just shows how folklore can change hands and mediums every year and every generation. For an added bonus, see below the Irish bread I made this year, brought into work just like my parents.
The informant is a Film Production and Biochemistry major at the University of Southern California, where he is in his third year. He is originally from Washington state, and his family moved there from North Dakota. Before North Dakota, his family lived in various parts of Eastern Europe. The informant says that is very much influenced by his grandfather, who is a professional storyteller.
In this piece, the informant describes how his family sees tomato soup—they have very particular thoughts on how it should be made and why.
“Both of my grandparents come from European places, and they’re very particular about their recipes and stuff. Like if you look at the way they care about their recipes, it’s just like equally the way that they would care about their folk tales. Like, we have the same borscht recipe that has been used since like my great grandparents. It’s passed down, you know, and it’s an old piece of paper and you can tell it’s been recopied over the years, but the most recent copy is in an old 1940s, it’s like an Eastern European cooking book that a bunch of the grandparent women, my family’s from North Dakota, so it was a bunch of North Dakotan Czech and German and Austrian, you know women and Russian and they all came together and they sat down at a typewriter and made, typed up all their family recipes from whatever cards or whatever.
So it’s kind of like, a little encyclopedia of like, a lot of family recipes, and my family’s borscht recipe, which is like a Russian soup, is in there. And it’s like, that’s like a very important thing to pass on, that recipe. And, you know, in like, I wish I had like a story I could say that they took from Europe, but that same preservation, like in a sense the recipe is its own like thing, and there’s a dill, like a dill tomato soup.
There’s like a little story about, like it’s like you know those grandparent sort of rant things about like “you don’t realize how important this is” but it like really changed, like, it’s like, they have this rant about tomato soup, and how like, how like Russia kind of invented tomato soup, and like how important, it’s like… Cause their version of tomato soup is um, there’s tomatoes, there’s dill, there’s sour cream, and like rice, and more like, substantial than just a regular soup.
And they kinda just like, this is like the original soup because you have grains for the soup that wouldn’t last because of mold and other stuff, you have tomatoes, which is like, were kinda hard to come by, so when you got those you just, cause it’s acidic and it’ll go bad, and like, they just talked, I don’t know, like, it’s just kinda a thing that they’re like, and you wouldn’t have tomato soup like this today, cause it’s just tomato soup in a modern sense. And this is another one of those recipes that they put into this book. I wish I had more of that rant off the top of my head.”
This piece brings up the question of ownership—when the grandparents talk about tomato soup, it’s to imply that Russian tomato soup is the “original” and most important tomato soup. The recipe itself is also interesting; though the informant did not remember the exact recipe, he remembered the specific reasons why ingredients were chosen, which gives the recipe much more context. To an outside listener, tomato, dill, and rice may seem like an arbitrary combination, but with the context that the tomatoes and grains would go bad unless made into soup, the reasons become clear. The way that the older women recorded these recipes for their descendants was also interesting, and it helped reinforce the importance that these recipes hold for them.
Me and my grandma, my Gigi, we would always make cookies together, these like these French cookies, they’re called like, Bisi or something, it’s “kisses,” like bissou, I think the plural is Bisi (Bises?), I can’t remember but you can just look it up. But we would always make them and she invented these cookies which she called them French kisses, and they’re basically like buttery as fuck, even though cause like French people love butter, like even though a lot of the stuff like in their pastries they love butter, in their croissants and stuff. And then we have this meal that we have every Christmas, I’m not good at this cause I don’t speak French, it’s called…oh it’s just Chicken Kiev, but you just change the chicken, whatever chicken is in French. But it’s so good, it has like cheese inside, you stuff the chicken, and there’s asparagus and different vegetables, and then you kinda pair it with like Ratatoui or stuff like that, so it’s kind of weird, but it’s good. And my great grandma has the recipe, she just died. It’s a really old family recipe. We have it every Christmas. Basically a lot of like, for us, how we’ve taken on our French culture is through food, so we have a lot of French food, and all those have come through my great grandma, it just keeps getting passed down. My great grandma lived in France, she was the first one from our family to come to America.
If you see my mom, she has black hair, like all my family has really dark brown hair and really tan skin, so they all call me white bread. Cause for some reason I came out like this, really blonde, blue eyed, like a little German kid. They all have green eyes.
This is an example of a family tradition that has been kept alive and continued in an effort to preserve their original (French) heritage and nationality, even generations after having moved to America. It is apparent that even so, much of that tradition is being lost, as the informant doesn’t speak French or know what the cookies are called, or much about the French culture surrounding the food that her family makes. It seems that she has a very American view of French culture, but yet has a desire to hold onto and continue her family’s French traditions as best she can. Her family’s ethnic traditions are important to her, and this is one way for her to access this, through food. This ritual of making cookies and other dishes with her grandmother is her way of expressing or trying to get close to her French heritage, and it has become much more of a family ritual and tradition than a national one.
The informant is an 18-year old college freshman at USC majoring in environmental studies and geology. She is of Irish and English descent, and when she is not at USC lives in Las Vegas with her parents and two siblings. I asked her about what her family does to celebrate Christmas. She said although her family is “not very religious,” they do have a Christmas ritual they do each year.
Informant: “I can tell you what I do for Christmas, I guess. So, we always, in the morning…Well, the night before we have to make a casserole. I know it sounds disgusting.
Interviewer: “What’s in the casserole?”
Informant: “I can ask my mom for the recipe.” [Recipe provided beneath interview.]
Interviewer: “Did she learn it from anyone, or was it a recipe from a book?”
Informant: “Both my parents learned it from their parents. We have to make the casserole the night before. And so then in the morning, we’ll wake up…so all the kids have to stay upstairs and we have this landing you can look over, but we aren’t allowed to look over it or go downstairs until my dad has his video camera and then he records us all coming down the stairs together. We go in a circle after our presents are sorted and one person opens and then the next, etc. We go through the whole thing until everyone is done, and one of my parents will put the egg casserole in. Once it’s ready, we eat that, and we just go and play with our presents. It’s so good, it’s like breakfast food, called egg casserole. It’s so good.”
2 pieces of bread (need to rip apart in small bite sized pieces)
1 pound of hot sausage
1 cup of mile
2 pinches of salt
2 pinches of pepper
Dry mustard (No exact amount, but around the same amount as the salt and pepper)
Brown the sausage. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Place in baking dish over night.
Next morning—preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes. It might need an extra 15 mins. Closer to one hour.”
My informant told me that it was a casserole passed down to her mom, as opposed to some other treat, because in Ireland—where her family is from (my informant described herself as “very Irish”)—they were very poor and as there was a lack of food, casseroles were something that could be thrown together using whatever they had. I thought it was super interesting that my informant perked up when she talked about he casserole and said multiple times how good it was. Food is fuel, but it is much more to people. There are emotional connections to food—memories of specific times or holidays or family members associated with certain foods—and that is passed down through families from one generation to the next is one example of this importance.
When asking my dad if he had any family recipes or ritualistic traditions in his family, he brought my sister and I together and revealed this gumbo recipe to us and wanted to make sure we had copies of it so we could teach our kids about it someday. My dad first learned this recipe from his mother when he was in his late teens. He didn’t have any female siblings, so it was his responsibility to ensure this family gumbo recipe survived. His mother was an amazing cook and loved cooking Southern dishes for their family, with this gumbo dish being made on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. My dad was excited to learn this recipe from his mom when he was in his late teens because it meant him being fully connected with his roots and being able to pass on the recipe which has been in my family for supposedly at least five generations. He said it was supposedly created by my great great grandma in Algiers, Louisiana.
I loved knowing that I am now responsible for carrying on the tradition, as my family doesn’t have many cultural traditions. It makes me feel closer to my ancestors and also allows me to learn more about Southern culture which formed the basis of my family’s identity for many generations.