On Tuesday evening, Justin surprised me with an after-work picnic which delighted me to no end until we set up camp under a willow tree and I couldn't stop sneezing all over our chicken salad sandwiches. Ahhh, romance. Bless his heart, he attempted to distract me with his charm and cheeky conversation and even swatted my hands away from my face the few times I tried to itch, and I'd like to grace you with a little snapshot of our conversation. Shall we?
Allow me to paint a picture for you: we're sprawled out on a maroon blanket next to a weepy tree and a sloshy stream, stuffed to our gills with red grapes and sweet tea, chatting about the future. Naturally, this gets my heart pumping since he is exactly the sort of man a girl would like to spend her future with, but nothing could have prepared me for the heartache that followed. I bumped the conversation from dream jobs to dream home, hoping he might entertain me. Yeah, not so much.
Her: So, would you want to live in an apartment, or do you think you'd wanna buy a townhouse?
Him: Eh, probably a townhouse. Renting is a pain.
Her: Can it have hardwood floors?
Him: Sure, if you wanna get a second job to pay for them.
Her: YOU get a second job!
Him: Okay. Stop rubbing your eyes.
Her: Well, they itch. Anyways, tell me one thing you want in your dream house, it can be anything.
(At this point, I'm bursting with youthful hope that he might answer that he'd like to have an overstuffed sofa for snuggling, or a photo of us in every room of the house, plaster molds of our children's feet as Christmas ornaments...)
Him: Hmm...probably a 50 inch flat screen t.v.
Her: That's really stupid, your eyes would burn up.
Him: Nah, you'd be okay. It can go in the Man Room.
Her: What, you want a room just for guy stuff? Like your deer head thingy?
Him: Yeah, and I want a urinal in there.
Her: (Shudder! Gasp! Horror!) No freaking way. Absolutely not. Why can't you use the toilet like a regular person?
Him: Because babe, it's just easier to stand up.
The previous message was brought to you by Chick-fila (purveyors of fine chicken salad sandwiches) and the letter C.
In other news, and with the hope you can get that horrible conversation out of your head, I made Irish Soda Bread this past week. I'm sure anyone who is legitimately Irish would be appalled by this since it contains orange zest and dried cranberries since neither of those are typical of the Irish and their soda bread, but it was still delicious enough with a smear of soft butter just before work in the morning. The idea of real soda bread doesn't appeal to me all that much, it's heartier, barely sweet, and a lot more crumbly than this version. Both of them will go stale rather quickly, so they're best eaten the day they're made, warm or at room temperature. I don't think this sort of thing would fly in the Man Room, where surely the only foods allowed are meat-based, but if he puts a urinal in that room, I'm sure as heck not going in there to offer him any bread.
Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus a bit extra for cranberries
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour, it should be a bit crumbly, like sand.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the cranberries with 1 tablespoon of flour (this will help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the loaf) and mix into the dough. It will be very wet and sort of scary looking. Don't worry, all is right with the world.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with lots of butter and jam.