“References to Cockaigne are especially prominent in medieval European lore. These accounts describe rivers of wine, houses built of cake and barley sugar, streets paved with pastry, and shops that gratuitously give goods to everyone. Roast geese wander about inviting people to eat them, and buttered larks fall from the skies like manna.
The origin of the word Cockaigne has been much disputed, but all versions tend to see it as adapted or derived from a word meaning “cake.” An outstanding early Irish version of the legend is Aislinge Meic Conglinne (The Vision of MacConglinne), a parody of the traditional saint’s vision in which a king possessed by a demon of gluttony is cured by a vision of the land of Cockaigne. A 13th-century French fabliau, Cocagne, was possibly intended to ridicule the idea of the mythical Avalon, the Island of the Blest. An English poem “The Land of Cockaygne” of about the same period satirizes monastic life. The name Lubberland displaced that of Cockaigne in the 17th century. The Big Rock Candy Mountain of American hobo folklore expresses the same idea.”
“Like Atlantis and El Dorado, the land of Cockaigne was a utopia. It was a fictional place where, in a parody of paradise, idleness and gluttony were the principal occupations. In Specimens of Early English Poets (1790), George Ellis printed a 13th-century French poem called “The Land of Cockaigne” where “the houses were made of barley sugar and cakes, the streets were paved with pastry, and the shops supplied goods for nothing”.”
“”Big Rock Candy Mountain”, first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928, is a country folk song about a hobo’s idea of paradise, a modern version of the medieval concept of Cockaigne. It is a place where “hens lay soft boiled eggs” and there are “cigarette trees.” McClintock claimed to have written the song in 1895, based on tales from his youth hoboing through the United States, but some believe that at least aspects of the song have existed for far longer. It is catalogued as Roud Folk Song Index No. 6696.
The Joy of Cooking (first edition 1931) uses the word “Cockaigne” to indicate that the recipe was a favorite of the authors’ parents.”