If there’s one thing I have learned about spuds over the past 6+ years, is that there’s always some new spud thing to learn.
Be it natural curiosity, or because – slowly and imperceptibly over time – I have become attuned to spud wavelengths, or because others, knowing my predilection for all things potato, pass snippets my way, there is, in my head, a steady accumulation of spud stuff. The recent few months – though they may have been largely quiet on the blog front – have been no different.
There was the friend from Mayo who, a while back, asked me to give him a call, if I were not “too busy scratting spuds.” When I rang later, he explained that in the ’70s – and, I’d imagine for many years before that – when farm workers from the West of Ireland would travel to England for seasonal work, locals would say that they were “scratting spuds in Scunthorpe.” Scratting meant digging potatoes by hand – not to be confused with apple scratting, which is the process of grinding apples up before fermentation into cider – but technology and the times we live in mean that “scratting spuds” is a phrase – and an activity – that has fallen into disuse.
WW2 evacuees on a farm in Pembrokeshire, digging potatoes the old-fashioned way, circa 1940
(public domain image from wikimedia commons)
On the other hand, modern times have brought us new ways, not just of harvesting, but of growing potatoes and of bending them to breeders’ wills. An article in the Observer last October told of a Dutch project – winner of an award under the USAID Grand Challenges for Development initiative – which is investigating the possibility of using salt-water to grow potatoes (and other crops).
“It’s like Marmite,” said one of the judges, “people either love it or hate it.”
Coddle, that is. Rare ould Dublin coddle. And the judges in question – myself, food and wine writer Leslie Williams and Sunday Business Post editor Gillian Nelis – had been called upon to adjudicate at what was surely a rare ould Dublin event: a Coddle Cook Off.
For those who don’t yet know enough about the dish to either love or hate it, coddle is a one-pot, throw-it-together wonder. Sausages, rashers, onions and spuds, left to simmer together on the stove for hours of a Saturday evening, becoming post-pub grub for the household’s imbibers. Perhaps it’s the idea – and the anaemic look – of boiled sausages that puts people off coddle. Why boil when you can sear and sizzle, eh? And yet, as the entries in last week’s coddle competition in Temple Bar showed, a brothy boiled sausage is no bad thing.
The competition – which raised €1000 for Epilepsy Ireland – was the brainchild of Kevin O’Toole of Chameleon and Pádraic Óg Gallagher of Gallagher’s Boxty House, and was held in conjunction with the inaugural Temple Bar Taste Trail – where punters could sample bites from any one of 10 Temple Bar restaurants – during the Temple Bar TradFest.
All’s jovial with the Coddle Cook Off Chefs before competition begins
You really will have to excuse the tumbleweed that has been rolling around this site for nigh on several months now. I can only plead, in my defence, that there have been assorted distractions of the non-potato kind.
The important thing is, I’m back. And I’m exercised. About cabbage.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax
Of cabbages and kings”
From Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’, in Through the Looking-Glass
Little did Lewis Carroll know when he penned those words how on-trend he would be years – nay centuries – later, with his cabbage reference. Yes, as 2015 has gotten underway, with its usual deluge of articles, tweets and posts about trends, food and otherwise, I read with a certain degree of bemusement in this article in the U.K. Independent that – and sorry about this kale – cabbage is the new rising star. Yup, cabbage. There is, of course, nothing wrong with cabbage, and a lot to like (except, perhaps, when you have an excess to deal with). So good on the chefs who are, we are told, now doing all sorts of things with cabbage. It’s versatile and available, cheap and green. Is and was. Before it ever took a stroll down the culinary catwalks.
cabbage – enjoying a bit of close attention