I don’t miss much about the city. My shopping gene has faded away to nothing. I’ve a 30-minute shop threshold, after which I begin to lose the will to live. Too many people. Too much choice. Too many decisions.
I know what I like and I know where to find it. But sometimes I’m not in the right part of the city. Usually, I’m heading for a train, having stacked my meetings and appointments back to back for the duration. It’s all about making the most of the time so that I don’t have to repeat the journey any time soon. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate the city by any means; I just prefer my village.
That said, there are a couple of things I crave. And yes, both are food-related. All my cravings are food-related.
When I think of the States, I start salivating for prime rib and chicken-fried steak with sausage gravy. When I think of Italy, all I can see are cannoli. Portugal means pastel de nata. Croatia is stuffed squid with chard. The list is endless. Budapest, a country in and of itself, so different is it from the hinterland, has become my port of call for two things: eggs florentine at the fab Cirkusz on Dob Utca, and an almond croissant and a round of soda bread from Arán Bakery.
I’m a fast eater. I have to consciously slow myself down and savour the food I eat. It takes effort. Except with Arán Bakery’s almond croissant. That I can drag out for ten solid minutes. I bought one extra to give to a friend I was meeting later and their response: That croissant was divine. You may have created an addict. Be warned. If I lived in the vicinity, I’d be oozing marzipan.
What word do you use to describe soda bread? A loaf of soda bread? A cast of soda bread? A cake of soda bread? Help! There’s a word there and I can’t bring it to mind. I thought it was tarn but …
In my failed search for the word I’m looking for, I found out that soda bread isn’t even Irish. We nicked it from the Native Americans and made it our own.
While soda bread is most famously attributed to Ireland, it was actually first created by Native Americans. They were the first to be documented using pearl ash, a natural form of soda formed from the ashes of wood, to leaven their bread without yeast. The Irish later discovered and replicated the process.
Am feeling a little gutted here. And it’s not nearly as old as I thought. But then if I had thought, I’d have realised the baking soda is a child of the 1830s, and one of four key ingredients, the others being wheat flour, salt, and buttermilk. Given that we had a famine going on at the time, it was soon popularised. And, given that ovens were in short supply, that you could cook it on on a griddle over an open fire was all the better.
Traditional loaves come with the cross on the top said to keep the evil spirits at bay and keep those eating it safe. I knew that. But what I didn’t know that up North, the cake is divided into four triangles, cooked on a griddle, and called farl. I know my farl and I thought they were flatter than soda bread, so I’d never made the connection.
Arán Bakery uses a deep cross so that you can break the loaf/cake/cast into four triangles. Everyone is happy.
But I’m in two minds. If the cross wasn’t as deep, the loaf/cast/cake/? might last longer. As it is, it’s gone in four sittings. I bought two; one for a friend a few villages over. This morning, early, I messaged her to say I had it for her. If I hadn’t, I’d have eaten it myself.
I’ve heard a rumour that Penny Market is now stocking a new Irish butter called ‘Truly Irish’ – I’ve a note made to myself to check it out. If you get there before me, you might let me know. It’d be a perfect pairing.
Yep – life is good when it’s simple and bread and butter are the right sort.
Wesselényi utca 23. Open Monday to Friday 07:30 – 18:00, and Saturday and Sunday 08:00-15:00.