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Three canceled flights and an Acela train later, I was on my way back to school after a relaxing winter break, trying to distract myself from the fact that the moment I got back I would be heading into Resident Assistant training. I decided to put on my favorite new show: Queer Eye. I started the show over break, needing relief from the holiday madness. It was a lighthearted show about people genuinely wanting to do good for others. The episode that I had started on the train was about Terri who was, to put it plainly, a train wreck. Her fashion choices did not reflect her age and she needed to get her personal life in order. It came to the part of the show where Antoni (the chef of the group) takes the ‘fixer-upper’ and helps them hone their cooking skills. Terri’s grandson was planning on moving in with her, and she wanted to do something meaningful with him. Terri showed Antoni her grandmother’s banana bread recipe and explained how it had been passed down for many generations. Antoni decided that baking this family recipe together would be the perfect bonding experience for grandmother and grandson. 

As I embarrassingly wiped the tears from my eyes, I reflected on my own family and their recipes. The one that sticks out the most is my great grandmother Alice’s Irish Bread recipe. Since my mom, who is also named Alice, is the oldest child (and frankly we make it the most) she has the honor of holding the original copy. 

The story of how my mom got her name is one of my favorites to tell. Originally, my Nanny and Poppy were going to name her Maura McGuire, which would be a mouthful for anyone to pronounce. Right before my Nanny was about to go into labor with my mom, my Poppy’s mother, Alice, died because of complications from type two diabetes. She was young and not even sixty years old at the time of her death. If she had been alive today, she would have lived much longer with the medical advancements in diabetes treatments. The morning of her funeral, my Nanny went into labor. My Poppy had a choice to make; to see his first child born or to lay his beloved mother to rest. The love that he had for his mother has always been evident to me; I can see it in the way he tells her story, describes the home she built for him and his siblings, and the way she loved her family. My Poppy did as his mother would have wanted him to and went to the hospital on August 12th, 1968, to see Alice Elizabeth McGuire born. 

There is no greater honor one person can give another than to name a child after them. Perhaps the only thing that compares is for that child to lead a legacy that the former would have been proud of. Safe to say, I think my mom has got that covered. 

My mom grew up hearing and seeing pictures of Grandma Alice, but never had the privilege of actually knowing her. I was lucky enough to grow up with all four of my grandparents, so even I can’t relate to her. One of the physical things that my mom has of Grandma Alice is her famous Irish Bread recipe. Even writing now, I can smell the caraway seed aroma in the kitchen while it forms a decadent crust in the original bundt pan. Nothing compares to Grandma Alice’s Irish bread. 

We have the original recipe, protected behind a shield of plastic, and make it frequently. Making the bread is a way of having her with us. The ingredients are simple, yet when they come together, they are magnificent. There is significantly less sugar in her recipe than in others because of her diabetes. My Poppy also has type two diabetes, so he appreciates the sugar quantity as well. The recipe’s basic ingredients greatly reflect my Poppy’s childhood during the Great Depression. Growing up, they were not wealthy by any stretch of imagination. Everything they had was the product of hard work. They used what they had and made their life what they wanted it to be. The ingredients were what was on hand and brought the family together.  

When I bake the bread, I cannot help but to think about her. What would her relationship with my mom and her siblings have been like? Would they have called her Grandma Alice or something more like Nana? What could she have taught my mom? Would they have made the Irish Bread together? 

My mom and I are connected to someone who we are related to biologically, but we have never met. It is strange to hold something that we know she’s touched, washed, and written on without even knowing her. We use her appliances in the kitchen, yet do not know how she would have cleaned them or why the pan has a dent in the bottom. This treasured recipe, in perfect cursive writing, is all that we have left of her and all we have ever known of her. Though this is all I will ever know of my great-grandma Alice, I’ve never felt more connected to her than when I’m baking her Irish Bread. 

History Major Spanish Minor Class of 2024 at The Catholic University of America. From Connecticut
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