My mother believes that if she doesn’t have potatoes every day she will die. I believe that she really believes that because she gets quite agitated if it gets near the end of the day and no potatoes have yet made it into her system .
Needless to say, we had potatoes for supper every single night of my life until I left home. This abundance of potatoes is not why I left home, but it may have been an underlying contributing factor. Who knows.
My mother has potatoes (mashed or fried) with spaghetti. She has potatoes with Chinese food because she doesn’t like rice. She always has potato dumplings handy for soup, in case whoever made the soup forgot to put potatoes in it. And there are always little pots of leftover potatoes of some form or another in her fridge for emergencies. She often brings a pot along when she goes somewhere for supper because she’s learned from experience that some people don’t have potatoes for supper every day.
My mother should have been an Inca.
Potatoes were first cultivated in the Peru area over 10,000 years ago. Potatoes and grains made up the bulk of the Inca diet, with a little fish, vegetables, nuts and maize thrown in for variety. Quechua, the Inca language, has more than one thousand words to describe potatoes and potato varieties. The Incas worshipped potato gods.
Okay, they probably didn’t look like that, but the Incas really did worship potato gods. Along with potatoes’ delicious, nutritious qualities, they were also used medicinally and considered symbols of fertility. I don’t know why — they don’t look like anything sexy. See. Here’s a actual Inca potato worshippy thing:
The Incas rubbed potatoes on the skin of sick people to make them better and used potatoes to help women in childbirth. I’m not sure how. Maybe getting them to peel a pile of spuds took their minds of their labour. Or maybe they used them to chuck at whoever had knocked them up so they could share in the pain.
Anyway, these days, the average North American eats close to 140 pounds of potatoes per year and the potato has become a nutritional staple around the world.
And no wonder. Potatoes have lots of good stuff in them. One 5 ½ ounce baked potato with skin contains:
- 45% of the daily value for vitamin C
- 620 mg potassium, comparable to bananas, spinach and broccoli
- trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc
- No fat
- 110 calories
Potatoes also contain toxic glycoalkaloids, which are also found in tomatoes and peppers and are members of the deadly nightshade family. Deadly nightshade, as we know from The Nightmare Before Christmas, affects the nervous system causing weakness and confusion, headaches, diarrhea, cramps and sometimes coma and death.
There aren’t many cases of potato poisoning however because people don’t usually eat spoiled potatoes or green potatoes or potato sprouts. Yes, that old wives’ tale about not eating that green stuff some potatoes have is true.
And speaking of delicious, non-poisonous potatoes, French fries do not originate in France at all, but in Belgium. The Belgians are still quite irate, I understand that the French just took credit for French fries and seem happy to keep doing so.
The Belgians have been deep-frying potatoes since the 17th century. It started out as a winter substitute for the little fish they used to catch and fry in oil. Because in the winter they couldn’t catch any fish, so instead of just not eating anything at all, they cut up potatoes in the shape of little fish and fried them instead. (True story).
So then during World War I British and American soldiers first discovered these high cholesterol treats at a Belgian McDonald’s or something and brought the idea back home; calling them French fried potatoes because that’s the language the people in Belgium, who made the potatoes, spoke. Poor old Belgians.
If you don’t want to eat potatoes you can also use them to:
- Remove stains from your hands by rubbing the hands with raw potato
- Make hot or cold compresses with grated potato
- Remove tarnish from silverware – boil potatoes and soak silver in potato water
- Get rid of eye puffiness by placing slices of raw potato on the eyes
- shine old scuffy shoes – just rub with raw potato and then polish
But if you do want to consume potatoes, here are some unusual potato ideas:
Papa a la Huancaína – a Peruvian potato salad made from boiled yellow potatoes in a creamy, spicy Huancaina sauce served over lettuce and garnished with black olives, corn kernals and hardboiled egg quarters. The sauce is made of white cheese (i.e.: Farmer’s cheese), vegetable oil, a hot yellow Peruvian chili pepper called aji amarillo, evaporated milk and salt blended together. Some recipes also add garlic, onion and crushed saltines.
Poutine Râpée - a traditional Acadian dish from New Brunswick and very different from the Quebec version of poutine. The Acadian poutine is a baseball-sized ball of grated and mashed potatoes filled with a ball of chopped up pork in the middle. The whole thing is boiled like a dumpling and eaten sprinkled with salt and pepper or sometimes brown sugar. Beurk.
Regular Poutine is a big-assed helping of Belgian Fries with fresh cheese curds on top drowning in hot, brown gravy.
Potato Vodka: Peel 1kg of potatoes for a litre of vodka. Chop the potatoes into small 1 centimeter cubes. Put the potato cubes into a pressure cooker with more than enough water to cover the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes have dissolved in the water and let the whole mess cool down. Strain out the potato leaving the juice to make your vodka.
Then you need to make a still. (Or you can buy a still for about $150) Something that will heat the juice and capture the steam and collect it — a big pot with a lid that connects to a tube or a pipe and another container to collect the juice at the other end. You do the whole distilling thing a few times and you end up with some highly intoxicating beverage.
Mmmmmm…potatoes. Who doesn’t love potatoes?