The Luck of the Cantonians!
As spring and St. Paddy’s Day approach, I am reminded of how lucky I am to live, work and play in Canton. I know that I often sound like a cockeyed optimist, but I truly believe our community is one of the most special places in Georgia, if not the entire Southeast.
While many of our neighbors in metro Atlanta have lost most of their original character to Atlanta sprawl, Canton intentionally has managed to pursue the right combination of small town charm and heritage, with modern convenience. In fact, our mayor and City Council have worked diligently to create a vision to guide new growth and economic development in a manner that protects, preserves and rehabilitates Canton’s historic character, while incorporating current features that enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors.
Of course, this is an ongoing challenge, as we strive for quality over quantity, but the results are becoming more apparent every day. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has selected Canton as the site for their next expedition later this month, and we will host a large group of visitors who will admire our accomplishments.
When it comes to quality development and revitalization, however, it takes more than luck and strategic planning by our city leaders. Our future course, just as our past success, depends on active engagement and collective pride throughout our community — including residents, businesses and other organizations. Although growth is inevitable, recent projects have demonstrated we can develop in new ways while preserving and promoting our historic assets and small town character.
Of course, progress implies different things to people, and that is only human nature. For some, it creates fear of change and the unknowns that follow. For others, it is exciting and welcomed with open arms. For me, it is a matter of balance and inertia. We can’t sit still and allow the world to change around us, but we can move forward with respect for the past and strategic intention for the future.
When I think of recent collaborations with fellow city leaders, staff, residents, community volunteers and others, I take great comfort in knowing we all have Canton’s best interest at heart. With good intention and transparency as our collective motive, optimism will continue to be Canton’s bread and butter.
Speaking of bread and butter, I have been experimenting in the kitchen. Cooking is a passion, but I usually focus on savory dishes. I don’t mind baking, and have even been known to whip up some amazing pies and cakes. However, nothing intimidates me more than bread making. This does not apply to my Southern staples — to-die-for biscuits and cornbread, of course! I’m talking about real homemade bread that requires patience and divine intervention. However, I am about to share a little secret just in time for St. Patrick’s Day – Irish Soda Bread. I have tried several versions of this quick, no rise bread, and it does OK in a pinch.
Recently, I found an interesting variation that incorporated buttermilk, so I thought there must be something to this approach. In addition, most recipes for soda bread tend to be on the flat and bland side, so I added lots of cheddar cheese and some fresh rosemary. With the soda, cream of tartar, buttermilk and egg, this version rose to an impressive height and the flavor was incredible. I served it with an Irish beef stew, but it will go well with anything. It slices well for sandwiches, and the leftovers make great croutons, savory bread pudding or other creative uses. It is really simple and quick, eliminating the fear of bread making.
As the Irish say, may you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.
Cheddar and Rosemary Irish Soda Bread
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda (fresh)
- ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
- 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and lightly flour a nonstick baking tray. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, pepper, rosemary and cheese in a large bowl.
Beat the egg, add to the buttermilk and mix to incorporate. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour, and lightly mix until a sticky ball forms. Dump the dough onto a flour dusted work surface and roughly knead into a ball shape. Use extra flour for dusting if too sticky.
Place the dough ball onto prepared baking tray. Use a serrated knife to cut an X on top of the soda bread. Top the bread with more salt and pepper, and bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
By Bill Grant, Canton city councilman and mayor pro tem. He is also president and chief creative officer of Grant Design Collaborative.