I plowed through Conversations with Friends in a day, and while I honestly can’t say that I liked any of the characters as people, I obviously found them quite compelling. The story focuses on two young college students, Frances and Bobbi, and the unexpected connections they forge with an older married couple, Melissa and Nick. Told from the point of view of Frances, much of the conflict in the novel comes from her refusing to acknowledge her vulnerability or let others see it.
Set in Ireland (and briefly France) this novel captured the uncertainty of growing up and finding a place for yourself in the world. All at different places in their lives, each of the main characters still struggle to define who and what they are.
In honor of the Irish setting, I decided to make a loaf of cheddar and bacon Irish Soda bread to enjoy while reading.
Cheddar and Bacon Irish Soda Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 ounces sharp cheddar, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 2 slices bacon
- 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
- ¾ cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the sheet where you will be placing the bread.
Cook the bacon over medium heat in a sauté pan until crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cool, chop and reserve the bacon.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and sugar, whisk together until combined.
Add to the dry mixture the cheddar, bacon and green onions, mix.
Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture, mixing until combined.
Knead for 1-2 minutes, until the dough is hydrated and holds together.
Form dough into a round loaf and transfer to the floured parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Cut a cross into the top of the dough, about ½ inch deep and 2-inches long.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the soda bread is lightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom of the loaf. If you have an instant-read thermometer, test the center of the bread for doneness, it’s ready between 190-200°F.