The Emotional Ingredients of Bread Sauce ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 350

If I had to pick just one thing to cook and eat at Christmas, it would be bread sauce.  In fact, I think I would manage fine on bread sauce alone and this has nothing to do with ‘austerity’ which has become one of the most used words in Ireland in the last few years.

Bread Sauce is my emotional stabiliser as Christmas fires all the personal and public changes of the year, and indeed life,  into the monstrous pressure cooker. Obviously, change can be both positive and negative but somehow all changes have to be processed and they seem to be at boiling point around Christmas and the New Year.

Bread Sauce has been part of my Christmas since I was a child. It connects me to the female line going way back to my grandmother and sideways to my sister. For me, it’s as constant as Santa and that’s saying it all. Santa never, ever let me down and he has a capacity to keep going, no matter what.

Bread Sauce starts on Christmas Eve with the halving of an onion and that view into the layers of life and what really matters. It may draw tears but these are soothed by the call of cloves begging to be inserted into the fleshy cracks. No matter what the weather, fresh bay leaves have to be picked from the little tree in the garden, itself born from a cutting from the big bay tree that lived outside Mother and Dad’s back door.

There is a need to live in the absolute present as the decorated onion, bay leaves and pepper corns come to the boil in a saucepan of milk. Milk, with all its connotations of motherhood, those calming words so often whispered in a comforting hug: Oh, no use crying over spilled milk …..

Mother and Me Photo: frank Tubridy
Mother and Me
Photo: frank Tubridy

As everyone sleeps on Christmas Eve into Christmas morning, except Santa, the covered saucepan works its own mingling magic which rises to a tantalising aroma when re-heated in readiness for the handfuls of bread crumbs to be absorbed, a moment when you watch the ease with which connections can bring a whole new texture to life.

So often, over the years, the phone has rung as this very point. Big Sis with her cheery ‘Happy Christmas ….. remind me again about the bread sauce …..’  Of course, she hasn’t forgotten how to make it but she never fails to mention it!

Gently dissolving a knob of butter and adding cream ~ thoughts flowing to Granny and her handmade butter and real creamy, cream.

The first taste of the warm bread sauce, licked off the wooden spoon, serves as a main course in re-assurance that fundamental love prevails.

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

9 thoughts on “The Emotional Ingredients of Bread Sauce ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 350”

  1. I love this post, Jean. Even though I have never had bread sauce, the way you write of it and its connection to past and present for you, really hit the spot for me this morning. Thank you for a well timed post! Merry Christmas to you and yours and all the best for a Happy and Healthy New Year! Kind regards, Anne Marie

    1. Here’s my seasonal advice re Bread Sauce.

      The main thing is to get to work on Christmas Eve if you want to move away from bland.

      Here’s the basis of my recipe:

      On Christmas Eve, peel 1 large white onion and cut it in half
      Stick about 6-8 cloves into each half of the onion

      Pour about a 3/4 of a pint of milk into a saucepan
      Add the onion halves as well as 6-8 pepper corns and 2 Bay Leaves

      Bring this to slowly to the boil. COVER and remove from the heat and let it cool for at least 12 hours.

      On Christmas Morning, pour the contents of the saucepan through a sieve and collect the milky fluid only.

      Bring this to the boil very gently. Remove from heat and add a few handfuls of white breadcrumbs. Let these soak into the milky mixture.

      Finally add a know of butter and a tablespoon or so of cream.

      You won’t be disappointed, I hope.

  2. My mother always made the most delicious bread sauce and although I’ve tried I’ve never been able replicate it. I might try again this year,
    Nollaig Shona Dhuit

  3. This brings a lot of nostalgia to my evening and connects me with my past. Great reading! You take on something so part of my Christmas memories. Happy Christmas Jean.

  4. Sounds yummy and not unlike our family bread sauce – we use 2 onions halved and stuck with about 12 cloves, otherwise we follow your method, beginning on Chsitmas Eve and add a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of white pepper at the end with a good slice of butter. I hope your Christmas Dinner will be the crowning glory of a fabulous day! Merry Christmas!

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