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THE IRISH KITCHEN
Margaret Johnson is perhaps
the most prolific Irish-American writer of topics dealing with Irish
food and drink. Holding dual citizenship in the US and Ireland,
Margaret is the author of five Irish
Cookbooks, An Afternoon Tea cookbook titled 'Tea and Crumpets', and has authored more than 200 food and travel articles
in a number of publications, including the "Irish Echo," "Irish
America Magazine," the "Los Angeles Times Syndicate," "Newsday," and Dublin's "Food and Wine" magazine.
To see what else Margaret has to offer, why not visit her website
at www.irishcook.com and www.margaretmjohnson.com.
The word Halloween owes its origin to the ancient Celtic harvest feast called Samhain (pronounced "sauin"), which occurred on the eve of the Celtic New Year, November 1, a time when the departed souls were allowed to walk the earth. With the arrival of Christianity to Ireland, this was later known as All Souls Day, a time to remember the dead. Several foods are traditionally eaten on All Hallow's Eve, especially colcannon and barmbrack. Bracks (from the Irish breac, meaning "speckled") are cakes studded with dried fruits and raisins which create a speckled effect when sliced. Those that are made with yeast are called "barmbracks," and those that use baking powder and fruit soaked in tea or cider are called "tea bracks" or "cider bracks."
According to tradition, hidden in the Halloween barmbrack were tokens to foretell the future--a ring for the bride-to-be, a thimble for the one who would never marry, a coin for the one who would be wealthy, and a small piece of cloth indicating the one who would be poor. Fortune-telling aside, barmbrack is delicious anytime of the year, and is best when served warm with butter.