Many of the 11% of Irish in Pittsburgh, PA trace their roots to family who left Ireland because of the famine in the mid 1800s and even in to the 1900s when there was dire poverty and prejudice (from Great Britain) in this breathtakingly beautiful country.
I am one of them.
My grandparents came to America in 1907 and others followed including my Aunt Delia. She’s taught me many things about my roots that I am very proud of.
Aunt Delia grew up in the Aran Islands,Galway, best know for its Fisherman knit sweaters. She made them with her mother to help bring some money into the family. Her father, like many Irish men, made a living as a fisherman.
One day when he went out into the ocean with her brother, Delia’s Dad and brother never came home. They were assumed to have drowned. Even today, Aunt Delia tears up when she remembers that day. She told me that she had to leave Ireland because the sorrow was too much to bear. She went to Dublin for a few years to make enough money to come to the U.S. Her sponsor lived here in Pittsburgh. That was 1950.
“There is always tragedy in life but you have to find the strength to find happiness again.” She’s raised six children (an Irish half-dozen) and now has 30 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in all.
Her happiness, that she has shared so lovingly with me, always includes the basic tenets of Irish culture: Faith, family, friends, love, laughter, loyalty, and —of course— food. Many years ago she taught me that the Irish home was always open and always ready to serve some tea and Irish bread.
One of my favorite bread recipes is Irish Soda Bread:
4 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups raisins
2 egg yolks
1/2 stick (1/4 c) butter
2 cups milk
In large bowl, mix dry ingredients and raisins. Add egg yolks, butter. Add milk. Mix with hands. Greases and flower a 10″ skillet . Bake at 300 degrees for one hour. Cool slightly on a rack and serve with butter and jelly.