Made by hand

I found this bread recipe that my mother had scribbled down from a woman in her 80's or 90's in Connemara years ago.

I will list out some of the ingredients here in case you can't read it. What I love is the quantities...

1 fist good coarse wholemeal
little palm wheatgerm
2 halves side plate white flour
1 litre buttermilk (2 pint jug)
1 palm little bread soda
pinch salt

I love all the different terms this woman had for quantities. So much is related to hands - a pinch, a fist, a palm... I have my nice little set of teaspoon and tablespoon measures, 5ml, 15ml - this woman had her hands.

The side plate measure I have heard of before. Upon asking an elderly relative about her bread recipe she told me "a saucer of flour" which I had to get her to show me. This measurement seems to have predated a cup of flour.

Several times in my life I've asked people for recipes which they couldn't provide. Years of making cakes, breads and tarts meant they did it by eye and by hand, and as a result recipes got lost along the way. Like my granny's famous apple tart, never to be repeated as we could never get a recipe from her. But even if we had, would it have tasted the same? No.

And I suppose that's one of the things I like about cooking - its a chance thing. Even with a very accurately measured recipe, its different every time. The bread I make is different every time I make it, and there's an element of surprise which goes with that which I love.