You say Potato, I say…uh…Potato

I just realized that the Gershwin Brothers tune doesn’t really lend itself to the written word does it? Not unless you spell the phrase out phonetically, and that seems a bit patronizing, even for me.

Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to, let’s call the whole thing off… Yeah, I’m not sure I like how that looks. Perhaps I’m in a mood of some sort.

Where was I? Oh yes…Potatoes! I’m done with Avocados and am bypassing Taro root (because I feel like it) and am heading directly towards the world’s favorite tuber. That’s tuber, not a root. Just stockpile that tidbit of trivia for the next time you watch Jeopardy.

Potatoes are reputed to have originated in what is now Peru, where they were cultivated for several thousands of years before anyone else in the world took notice. Then those 16th century bullies, the Spanish, came along and thought it worth taking back to Europe. Once in Europe, the potato was determined to be poisonous (only slightly true), not worthy for the upper class (only true via the inherent classism in Europe) and even unchristian (not true at all, for as we all know, the only unchristian foods out there are Devil’s Food Cake and Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese).

European Classism is a particularly interesting aspect of the Potato’s history, because the popularity of the tuber is almost inextricably tied to the war between the classes. Outside of a few countries (notably Ireland), people initially didn’t want to eat the potato because they didn’t want to be seen as impoverished. According to Reay Tannahill, in 1774, hungry citizens of Kolberg refused to touch the potato when Frederick the Great of Prussia sent them a wagonload to relieve the ongoing famine. Their minds could only be changed by the local militia. If you’re starving, yet won’t eat a potato until someone sticks a gun to your head, I think it’s safe to say you have issues.

Luckily the Age of Enlightment helped the poor ol’ potato, as the “food of the poor” evolved into “food of the common man” which struck a chord to nearly anyone who took part of the many Revolutions that affected the Europeans in the late 18th century. Of course it didn’t hurt matters that potato crops seemed to survive periods of warfare (something else that Europeans were particularly good at during that time). Mean-spirited troops were known for burning down various fields of wheat and barley which in turn would have devastating effects upon a governments ability to feed the locals. Potatoes, which grow underground, were less affected by such strategies. This was evidenced by the introduction of potatoes into areas of what is now present day Germany, probably the same areas that years before had rejected the potato even when they were hungry.

Anyways, I’ll probably be spending additional time on the potato, because I think they deserve such added attention. I haven’t decided on how many recipes I’ll do, but it will be certainly more than the typical 3 recipes/per ingredient that usually occurs on this here site.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Potatoes

Tags: ,