"Death to the Red Hag!"

In subsistence farming, the main goal is to subsist, yes? To survive. Occasionally, often seasonally, this means stretching things thin; and when the scarcity ends, this means celebration. In Ireland, the first digging of potatoes was such an occasion, and the celebration was called Lughnasadh or Lammas and was observed in early August with many celebrations of community.

Food, food is powerful stuff. We can process it all we want, but we need it to stay alive, so we might as well enjoy it. Same goes for community. Powerful stuff, we can't live without it, might as well enjoy it. As sneff notes, this is humble but magical food. My version strays into what i fear sensei might even term "brown gack", but it's solid, easily feeds many (eager and happy eaters) and allays any fear of starvation.

  • salted water
  • 3/4 - 1 cup brown lentils
  • 4 or so medium potatoes
  • a head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
Heat in a skillet:

When the potatoes are soft, drain them, keeping the water for bread and soup stock. With the addition of lentils, it's richer and tastier than other potato water. Mash them, but not too well, and when the greens are wilted but not too wilted, mix them on in. I added a little asafoetida (oh-so-inauthentic), but if i didn't have any, i might have added brewer's yeast.

This is a harvest meal, preparing us for a winter of tubers and such. But it's still summer. To signify that and because i like color, i added a chopped red bell pepper to the mix (with the green and purple of the kale). The whole mix can go back into the skillet, sprinkled with coarse black pepper, paprika, and turmeric, and baked at 350° F for 15 to 20 minutes.

"The red hag" was the personification of the spectre of starvation. Most of us computer-age people don't farm and many have no clue when harvest seasons start, if we even know what time of year it is. However, most of my friends don't have much money. All of the important ingredients are easy to come by and relatively cheap. I'm lucky enough to be able to make this with locally-grown, organic veggies, but one makes do, right?

Share this with your friends; we don't have enough celebrations. It is traditional to eat colcannon on Lughnasadh until you're stuffed to bursting, in order to foil that red-headed hag.

Variation: at my parents' house, we'd eat this with generous amounts of cheese on top. Cheese and potatoes are an almost irresistable combination. (JudyT says Yay for cheese and potatoes. All else is luxury.) Without it, though, this is vegan, and most meat-eaters won't even care.
Nutritional notes: Brewer's yeast (aka nutritional yeast) will add B vitamins. And for those who need iron, the dark leafy greens and cast iron pot will be a boon.