Monday 21 May 2018

Grandma's brown bread a recipe for Olympic success

The O'Donovan brothers. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
The O'Donovan brothers. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

It is the wholesome, energy-packed food that fuelled Ireland's Olympic rowing medal triumph in Rio.

But even if international sports-science experts call to her door, proud grandmother Mary Doab won't reveal the secret recipe of the traditional brown bread that was hailed by her grandsons, Gary (23) and Paul (22) O'Donovan, as critical to their Olympic success.

Gary and Paul paid tribute via the world media to the tasty home-made brown bread, scones and soup fed to them by Mrs Doab at her Ballincollig home during their regular training sessions in Cork.

The brothers, from Lisheen outside Skibbereen, would also regularly stay at their grandmother's house to avoid the long daily trek back to west Cork after training at the National Rowing Complex at Farran.

But despite her grandsons' international success, Mrs Doab insisted that her recipe for brown bread remains strictly off-limits.

"There's no secret," the great grandmother said.

"It is just brown bread and anyone at all can make it.

"I'm telling you there is no skill in it. Sure, anyone can bake.

"It is not like years ago when you didn't even have an oven. I have been baking brown bread since I was 12 year old.

"Back then at home, (you baked) in the bastible because there were no ovens."

Mrs Doab has seven grandchildren, six great grandchildren and, despite being in her seventh decade, still loves cooking at her O'Donovan Crescent home.

As for the soup that Gary and Paul hailed as the key to their recovery after exhausting rowing sessions on freezing winter nights, Mrs Doab said the secret was all in the ingredients.

"Of course, anybody can make soup as well," she said.

"It is all about the ingredients. There is no skill in baking brown bread and making soup.

"You have got a pair of hands, the same as me. That's what you start with.

"You go to the garden or your shop and get gorgeous fresh vegetables.

"Things like lovely carrots, parsnips and mushrooms. All Irish - don't be buying those things coming in from Spain and the like."

The two most popular soups she makes are mushroom and vegetable - and the menu is set by the availability of the ingredients, not by her hungry grandsons.

Mrs Doab said she was "very proud" of the way her grandsons had repeatedly mentioned the importance of eating her home-cooked meals.

"But I am proud of every single one of my grandchildren and my great grandchildren," she added.

Irish Independent

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