After a recent encounter over a bowl of exceptional, sage butter-drizzled patatas bravas, where I seemed alone in my blubbering affection for the potato, it became clear to me that the wart-riddled spud was in danger of becoming an unsung hero.
Perhaps it’s the part German blood in my veins that awakens such a deep love of potatoes. Or maybe my years around Banters pulling up their noses at the versatile tuber amid all the real meal revolutionising has turned me into a crazed woman rooting for the underdog spud.
A simple potato is about as real as it gets. Just ask any one of the hundreds of Irish working class who relied on them for much of their nutritional intake. It formed such a large part of their culinary esteem that the Irish concocted 16 different terms for potatoes from tiny (Paidrín (pad-reen)), to wet (Stomach (shli-muck) to mashed (Brúitín (brew-teen)). Even couched ones garnered a unique moniker (Sámhaí (saw-vee), perhaps what you become when you’ve eaten too much Brúitín.
If you’re not immersing your spuds in heaps of cream and fried bacon bits, the ordinary white potato is rather nutritious, providing a decent share of your iron, magnesium, vitamin C and B6, while still offering more potassium than bananas. But let’s not get hung up on their health offering. It’s the humble potato’s versatility that should really win your favour.
When boiled and salted, they make for wonderful cycling companions, keeping cramping calf muscles at bay. Baked with rosemary and olive oil, potato wedges will up the stakes of a roast chicken dinner like no other veg. Mashed with some butter they become an easy to whip up, soul-soothing comfort food. Grated, pan-fried and served with apple sauce they transform into an East-European delicacy. The kartoffelpuffer or latkes, also known as hash browns, are breakfast game-changers. And just when you think they couldn’t be any more decadent, invite the hasselbacks to Sunday lunch – slow baked potatoes with deep, buttered grooves in a bubbling bath of brown onion sauce. You won’t even notice if there are no other guests at the table and you won’t have to squabble about the leftover potato. And what would struggling artists or Winter nights be without a wee potato in its snug jacket? Let’s not forget the seagull taunting slap-chips that form a compulsory duo to vinegar-soaked, crumbed hake. Gatsby? (I hear it’s great) Hamburger and… chips? Steak, egg and… chips? What is a boat without its sailors?
While you’re mumbling moreish flatteries over your potatoes, why not marvel at the fact that potatoes made the cut as the first deep space food, grown on Space Shuttle Columbia way back in 1995. NASA, together with the International Potato Centre (who, are hiring, in case you are as excited by their existence as I am) are now working out how to keep them alive on Mars. Which other food can hold claim to such astronomical achievements?
Before you roll your eyes at my shameless tater soliloquy, consider how many other vegetables are able to provide such literal and literary solo substance? It’s even held its time in the Hollywood limelight, adding lyrical whimsy to Fred and Ginger’s starry-eyed musical repartee.
Quite frankly, I don’t care what you call it. Potato or potahto – as long as you’re still singing its praises, you’ve got a friend in me.
Creamy, healthy and hearty! (Image: Benjamin Manley for Upsplash) 7 Insane potato bakes that will make you weak at the knees Potatoes are simply one of the culinary world’s most versatile and humble vegetable but there’s nothing more comforting and fuss-free than whipping up a quick baked potato – filled (or topped) with a plethora of exciting ingredients.