Frequently Asked Questions on Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread creates great interest around St. Patrick's Day each year. Members of the Press are always interested in how a site devoted to Traditional Irish Soda Bread came to be. So, below you will find answers to some of the most common questions I get each year. If you have others, please feel free to contact me.
http://www.sodabread.info The Society For The Preservation of Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread site info. Common Q & A: Updated March 10, 2010
Contact Ed O’Dwyer: sodabreadsociety or 770-402-0696 with questions on the site. e-mail is preferred.
Q: When did you start http://www.sodabread.us (www.sodabread.info added later) ?
A: http://www.sodabread.us started up in Feb. 2003, one month before St. Patrick’s Day that year.
Q: Why did you start it?
A: Back in 1999 my family became involved in Irish Dancing and travelled to contests throughout the South. At many of those competitions there was also an “Irish Soda Bread” competition. I was surprised to see that most of the entries looked nothing like “Irish Soda Bread.” They came in all shapes and sizes. They had all kinds of non-soda bread additions that changed both the texture and taste. Most didn't even have the traditional "X" on them.
Then in 2001 I overheard a winner of a competition bragging that her “secret” for good soda bread was to soak raisins in whiskey overnight. That really annoyed me. Many people think adding whiskey to something makes it an Irish dish. That’s both insulting and stereotyping.
At that point I started thinking about ways to encourage people around me to learn about the real Irish soda bread I remembered from living in Ireland. I started by taking Irish soda bread to dance classes to share with other parents waiting for their kids. The Irish-born recognized the bread as the one from their childhood. Others, whose ancestors came over in the 19th century, learned about the traditional Irish soda bread and some began to make it themselves.
Still, at each competition I saw cakes with chocolate chips, icing, and who knows what being entered into the “Irish Soda Bread” contest and winning since the judges had no idea of what it should taste like. It was really a regular baking competition with a few dabs of green icing. (I also researched bread judging in general and came up with a judging sheet for competitions which is located on the site.)
I began gathering information on Irish soda bread and made it available on-line for others to learn about Irish Soda Bread.
Since it seemed that with each generation the art of making soda bread was dying out, I came up with the name “Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread.”
So, in Feb 2003 the Irish Soda Bread web site went on-line under one of my other sites and has grown to the point of being a stand-alone site in 2007 at http://www.sodabread.us and http://www.sodabread.info
Q: How many visitors does http://www.sodabread.us get?
A: Well if you Google “Irish Soda Bread” you will gets results showing 1.2 million sites if you don't use quotes. With quotes it goes down to 125,000. This Irish Soda Bread site is usually in the top ten. If you Google “Traditional Irish Soda Bread“ you get about 63,500 sites with http://www.sodabread.us coming up #1 usually. Not many of those sites list the "traditional Irish soda bread" ingredients. One even calls for a "sugar glaze" in it's "traditional" recipe.
So, with that we get plenty of visitors. A large spike starts a few weeks before St. Patrick’s Day.
In 2009 we had over 80,000 visitors. 40,000 right before St. Patrick's Day 2010.
Q: How many members are there in the “Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread”?
A: This is one of those Societies where there are no dues, no meetings, and the only requirement for joining is to bake traditional Irish soda bread from time to time and teach a child about soda bread and how to make it. So, we don’t take roll call. I get e-mails from people all over the country telling me they have the SFTPISB certificate hanging in the kitchen. We added a Facebook page last year for the Society and as of today we have 1,035 members. I was hoping to break 1,000 by St. Patrick's Day 2010 and we made it.
Q: Where do most of your site visitors come from?
A: Unfortunately, the host software does not track site visitor country of origination. I get e-mails from all over north America. In 2007 I received a note from a US student living in Tibet who used the site for a recipe and shared the resulting loaf with other students from numerous countries.
I’ve also exchanged e-mails with people in Japan but mostly I get questions from here in the US about how to make the bread or the Irish soda bread history. I recently received a note from a youngster who asked if he could join since his mother taught him how to make soda bread. And that is what the site is all about. Passing traditional Irish soda bread making and history on to the next generation as my mother passed it on to me and her grandmother passed it on to her in the early part of the last century.
Q: What are the most unusual soda breads you have observed?
A: The most common mistake is to add raisins to it which then makes it a “Tea Cake” or “Railway Cake.” There is nothing wrong with that, but it isn't soda bread. Tea cakes are great for "tea" but technically not a soda bread. I have seen jalapenos added to the mix. One on-line recipe calls for putting a sugar glaze on the “bread.” One current (no pun intended) well-known cooking site has a recipe calling for dark chocolate and candied Orange peel. Right! And, the ever popular "Orange Zest" added to the bread.
Q: What is the biggest problem with making Irish Soda Bread?
A: It’s a real easy bread to make which is why it became the standard at Irish meals beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. Today, the biggest problem is that everything we eat or drink has “sugar” in one form or another in it. That’s why so many recipes for Irish soda bread have some form of sugar added. Sugar addiction creates the desire to make everything sweet. And, sugar is why obesity is a problem today.
So, Irish soda bread, which doesn’t contain added sugar, comes as a shock to many who never tasted it before. That’s if they eat it plain or with butter. A little dab of jam on the bread helps to bridge the sugar gap.
If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me at sodabreadsociety .