If there’s one Irish stereotype that holds true, it’s their love and mastery of potatoes. There are many potato dishes from the Gaelic heartland worthy of recognition, but only a few which have become internationally beloved.
If you’re looking for a way to reinvent your Thanksgiving day dinner, then this is an opportunity to pay homage to one of Ireland’s most famous potato creations, Colcannon. Coming from the Gaelic term cal ceannann, meaning ‘white headed cabbage’, it originated in Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries when potatoes, cabbage and leeks were considered the food for the masses.
Since there were found in abundance and consequently very affordable, it makes sense that this quickly became one of the country’s most popular dishes and a staple at most meals and even today, you can find the recipe for Colcannon printed on the back of potato packaging.
The dish was first recorded in the 1735 diary entry of William Bulkely, a visitor from Wales who enjoyed the dish when he was in Ireland for the festival of Samhein – the day we now know as Halloween. Samhain marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter and longer darker nights and as such, the festival is steeped in tradition and superstition.
In Calcannon, a coin, rag or stick was often cooked into the mix and depending on what trinket you found in your potatoes, it would determine your future. The coin indicated imminent wealth, the rag poverty and the stick meant you’d be beaten by your spouse – all very cheery interpretations clearly.
Though Thanksgiving is definitely a time of more positive reflection, it does carry an air of hope and speculation about the future which makes it the perfect occasion to whip up some Colcannon and make some predictions of your own.