Barmbrack

It was supposed to taste
of your childhood –
a childhood that I didn’t know –
I never knew you grazed-kneed,
talking excitedly, packed onto
that back bench, trapped
between a brother and a sister –

but instead, made something
different. You liked it. It was not
your childhood, rain on the windows,
warmth in the kitchen –
it was something different,
tastier, maybe, comforting
as the day fades, as the wind
rattles roudn the house –

warm cinnamon, half-melted butter
oozing off the fruited slice –
a new coziness. Isn’t that
how marriage works? We bring
our memories, make something new,
cherish the old. Relish this now.

Barmbrack is an Irish tea loaf, traditionally eaten at Halloween, with charms inside it that have various symbolic meanings. My Irish husband mentions it every Halloween, and one year I decided to bake a loaf for him. If you want the recipe, it’s here: https://www.irishexaminer.com/recipes/?c-recipeid=4079

I’m not a great baker, but this is delicious. It tastes nothing like my husband’s childhood memories, but it’s become part of our repertoire.

This is for dVerse. I’m hosting tonight, and we’re writing poems about food.

37 thoughts on “Barmbrack

  1. I tried recipe after recipe, trying to replicate my mother’s apple cake, which essentially is a spice cake with cinnamon coated apple slices placed edgewise into the batter in a rectangular pan. I finally remembered that my sister had my mother’s recipes. She sent a picture of the recipe card. I made it. It was nothing like what I remembered. I decided that after fifty years of baking my mother probably never looked at the recipe. I finally found one, myself, that takes me back to hers.

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  2. Already printed the recipe, Sarah & can’t wait…
    Not that I can’t wait to taste it, but if it reminds me AT ALL about ANY PART of my childhood, I’ll be REALLY bummed out.

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  3. Recipe bookmarked, I do love a tealoaf. I love this poem as well, I could feel so much of my own experience with marriage in it. My husband was 19 when we met, so I only know his childhood through stories I’ve been told. Similarly, what seems normal for me strikes him as absurd. I think “a new cosiness” is the perfect way to describe it.

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  4. I love the journey of this poem – leaving old traditions, new ways of doing things that eventually become traditions themselves.

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  5. This is a perfectly lovely poem and I appreciated it even more on the second reading, after I read you explanation at the bottom. Did you put charms in the loaf? If so, what were they? This is a bit like the Rosca they bake for Three Kings day here in Mexico, with one or more baby Jesuses baked inside. Whoever gets the baby in their slice has to provide the tamales for Candlemas.

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