Irish Soda Bread Exhibition at Maith: Augmented Reality, Harshest Reality (part 1)
Irish soda bread is the theme of the next exhibition at Maith, the world’s first permanent AR exhibition space. Because Maith is located within the Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans, soda bread was a natural choice. All over the world, on St. Patrick’s Day, soda bread is as common as green beer. And, on a personal note, food and history have been recurring themes throughout my career. While living in Singapore, I created “thumb kuehs”, considered to be one of Singapore’s first examples of food art. In my book entitled i ate tiong bahru, food is a starting point for stories about a Singaporean community. Furikake is the name of another book, furikake being the name for Japanese rice seasoning. With Sayuri Okayama, I created Bubiko Foodtour, “a little chef” with whom we explore AR. My food photographs and portraits of chefs, taken in places like Paris, Tokyo, New York, Singapore and Ipoh, have been published in books and magazines. In preparation for this exhibition, Chef Susanna Johnson-Sharp and I had spent nearly a week together; she created and shared her insights, I documented. Finally, my mother makes great soda bread.
When I finally was able to quietly spend time in the Irish Cultural Museum, I realized the serious side of soda bread. In the museum, one wall is dedicated to Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger. The Potato Famine. What some have called the Irish Holocaust. The sweet bread that my mother bakes so well originated in the years after 1845, when so many Irish died of starvation that coffins were made with trap doors so they could be used again and again. Now, often filled with raisins, sliced almonds and sugar; and served slathered with butter, the original soda bread was brown; made only with flour, baking soda, sour milk (buttermilk) and salt. Soda bread, in all of its variations, symbolizes the 1.5 million Irish women, men and children who sailed to the United States to escape the Great Famine.
The idea of a book about Irish soda bread is now with me. So far, I have found many references to potatoes and soups, but very little about soda bread. Native Americans, and a merchant in Rochester, New York are part of the soda bread story, but more research needs to be done. What is certain, however, is that the Irish soda bread exhibition at Maith must utilize augmented reality to honor the memory of those who perished, and celebrate the spirit of those who survived.