St. Patrick’s Day may have its roots in Ireland, but it is celebrated all over the world. Similarly, we might associate potatoes with Ireland, but they show up in the cuisines of many countries. And if you think the Irish were the only ones with the genius idea to boil and mash them, think again.
In order to find these twelve different versions of mashed potatoes, we examined a comprehensive list of all potato dishes — fried, roasted, grated, etc. — and plucked out the ones that were applicable. Since most of these were dishes from European countries, we searched further east for a few more colorfully flavored potatoes. After all, the countries that these particular dishes come from are responsible for farming most of the world’s potatoes today (almost a third of all spuds harvested worldwide are grown in China and India).
While nobody can really pinpoint the origins of mashed potatoes as we know them, the French will vociferously argue that they were invented by one of France’s greatest eccentrics, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier. If there were ever such a thing as a potato enthusiast, he would fit the bill. In his time, outside of Ireland, potatoes were considered food for livestock and were even made illegal in France because they were believed to cause leprosy. When Parmentier was fed potatoes while imprisoned by the Prussians during the Seven Years’ War, he realized what we all know: potatoes are amazing. After leaving prison, he performed a series of highly publicized antics using potatoes: he gave bouquets of potato blossoms to the king and queen and served mashed potatoes to Ben Franklin at a party, all to convince the monarchy to legalize the maligned vegetable. He succeeded. There are multiple potato dishes named after him, the most famous being hachis Parmentier. Fun fact: Parmentier’s grave is surrounded by potato plants.
Parmentier’s zest for potatoes is hardly unique. The literal translation of the name of the Danish mashed potato dish brændende kærlighed is “burning love.” Rappie pies from Nova Scotia are short for “rapture pies.” In Ireland, the mashed potato dish colcannon is so popular that there is a song about it. None of this seems odd to us; these dishes are all pure, starchy ambrosia.
Let’s take a romp through the mashed potatoes of the world that would make Parmentier proud.
This fondue-like bowl of decadence from the Aubrac region of France has four magic ingredients: butter, cream, garlic, and cheese (traditionally a tomme from central France). Try it at a 25-seat, reasonably priced bistro named Chez Germaine in Paris.
A well of mashed potatoes filled with onion and cubes of bacon. There is a reason that the literal translation of this Danish dish is “burning love.” Head over to the Michelin-starred restaurant at Skovshoved Hotel in Charlottenlund in the north of Denmark, which Condé Nast Traveler calls one of the world’s hippest small hotels.