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  • Tess Koerner

Great British Bake off... Irish Style

Tess Koerner

Never did I expect making gluten-free bread for the first time to be on an Irish farm. If you told me this when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I would have asked for proof (and if I got an aisle seat on the flight).  

I had known for some time that going to Causey Farm included making traditional Irish soda bread. Of course, I was bummed that I couldn’t participate, but alas it would be fun to watch—like the “Great British Bakeoff,” but Irish and significantly lower budget.

I took my spot along the sidelines, happy to watch and trying not to look too awkward. Louise was confused as to why I wasn’t partaking in the action but quickly remembered. After a mini panic about where and what I was going to eat for lunch, it was like my own Irish farm angel came to my rescue.   

Pauline, halo and wings not included, came back with a package of gluten-free flour and xanthan gum, saying I’ll be making bread too. To me, making gluten-free bread that would be safe for me to eat wasn’t typically done in a barn. I asked if my loaf would be baked in a separate oven (an important safety precaution).

Pauline could sense my nervousness and replied, “I’ll ask you, what do you need? Is that something you need?” When it came to my diet, I have never been asked this question.   

Having Celiac Disease means you constantly feel like an inconvenience when you partake in anything involving food. Going out for a quick bite with friends turns into frantically skimming online restaurant menus, which 9 out of 10 times ends in ordering a glass of water with a smushed protein bar.

The anticipation of traveling to Ireland always fizzled out when I pictured going to a pub surrounded by my classmates, newly enchanted by Guinness’ foamy head and rich chocolate appearance, or not being able to go on a group late-night takeaway run of chips and other fried delicacies.

I kept telling myself that I would just have to adapt and not rely on anyone else for food accommodations when in Ireland. Yet here I was at an Irish farm about to make gluten-free bread.    

At first, I was hesitant because it felt like being isolated at the allergy table at school, something I never experienced until now it seemed. But I was in Ireland. Making bread I could eat.

I followed along with the demonstration, just as my other classmates did. I scooped the flour, poured the milk, cracked the egg and mixed everything together. Throughout the whole process, I was included and immersed. Now, if this truly was a baking competition, I would most definitely be packing my bags and thanking the camera for this opportunity with tears flowing down my cheeks.  

Homemade gluten-free bread is not the most texturally appetizing thing in the world, but hey I made it! Are there more important or exciting things that happened at Causey Farm? It depends on who you ask. If you ask me, probably not.  

Student mixing ingredients for bread

Photo by: Thomas Bligh

Students mixing ingredients for bread

Photo by: Thomas Bligh


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