Recently, I have been craving brown soda bread, like we used to get at home in Ireland when I was growing up. Not a bad thing to crave; soda bread is very healthy; whole grain, low fat, delicious.
This craving started with a combination of a few things. After the Stove Woes of Thanksgiving (a story for another day) I finally -after 12 years in this house- have an oven in which I am willing to bake something a bit more involved than packaged brownies. And I found out that a beloved aunt had died back in Ireland, which made me sad, nostalgic and craving comfort food.
So I determined to bake myself some soda bread. I have great memories of Mother Francis in the convent orphanage mixing up large industrial batches of brown bread by hand; apparently weighing and measuring nothing, but the bread came out perfect each time. Those afternoons in the big convent kitchen where she baked, a few of us kids keeping her company and helping in small ways, are some of the warmest memories of my childhood.
And I have a great book
Which I got on sale when Borders was closing. I highly recommend it, BTW. The French Onion Soup is to die for. There are a few recipes therein for brown soda bread (and yeast bread, homemade butter and .....loads of interesting stuff). Darina Allen advocates using sour milk in brown bread. Not milk that has lemon juice added, but spoiled milk. She says it is the old-fashioned way and that it gives a better flavour than buttermilk (which is the common substitution). I remember this clearly. I remember Mother Francis reserving the "gone off" milk for use in the soda bread ("Waste not, want not. There are starving children in Biafra"). OK fine. Spoiled milk it is.
I found some half&half that had been bought for Thanksgiving and only half-used lurking in the back of the fridge. The expiry date was December 16th. I found it on December 27th. Great! I took a whiff. It smelled perfectly fine; fresh, creamy delicious. Not a whiff of sourness. I left it out overnight. The next day it STILL smelled great. And the day after. At that point I posted a rant on Facebook, and several of my friends left comments to the tune of "Are you out of your mind? You'll poison yourself!". But of course, I knew better. I had eaten bread made with spoiled milk in Ireland in the 70s and I was FINE (mind you, that milk only took a day or two to spoil). The bread would be baked in a (working!) 400 degree oven, which would kill any unpleasantness, anyway. Right?
What could go wrong?
On the third day out in the warm kitchen, kept close to the radiator, the half&half was finally starting to whiff and separate. So I made me bread. It rose beautifully, smelled gorgeous, was a bit crumbly from the extra fat in the half&half, but tasted delicious! I was so proud of myself! I had gotten up early to jab the cat, and had stayed up to bake bread. It was 9:30am, I had fresh bread from the oven for breakfast and the whole day ahead of me.
And then I had the biggest seizure I have had in a long time. Five hours blown. And when I came back, I felt horrible; weak, tired, shaky and running a fever of 101.5.
"BUT IT WASN"T THE BREAD!" I insisted, while banning the other family members from trying it. "Mind you, I'm afraid to have more, in case I seze again" I admitted to Himself. "Have some more at bedtime", was his unhelpful reply, which to my addled brain made perfect sense. That way, if it did make me seize again, it was while the Monsters were sleeping, and I would lose no more of the day. He caught me eating it at bedtime and was all "WTF? I was JOKING!", but by then most of the slice was down me gullet, anyway.
It did make me seize again. Not fun. The next morning, I threw that bread out.
And I thought about what I learned from this:
I learned that American commercially-produced milk of today, is a lot different than Irish commercially- produced milk of the 1970s, and indeed, different to Darina Allen's Irish organic-farm-produced milk of today. Which makse sense if you think about it (as I did after the fact); these days, cows are given a horrifying amount of antibiotics, so there is no bacteria in the milk to spoil it quickly. Therefore, the stuff that is going to hang around and eventually spoil it for you, is probably the really, REALLY nasty shit -that is probably antiobiotic resistant.
I'm lucky I only seized.
The other thing I learned; -and I don't know how useful this wil be- is that I have actually found a single food that will produce a seizure. One of the most frustrating things about this journey has been the inconsistencies. Food makes me seize, yes. But I have never been able to identify any particular food that would do it (except a large dose of sugar after a fast, as in a Gloucose Tolerance Test). A meal I could eat with no consequences one day, would make me seize violently on another. This makes it very difficult to control my seizures via diet.
And I learned that if intelligent people you respect tell you a plan is stupid, it probably is. OK I knew that already, but apparently I forgot it in my obsessive nostalgia.
There is a happy ending:
I baked this non-toxic speciman yesterday. It didn't rise quite so beautifully, but it didn't make me sick, either.