Potato Day

According to one Web site I found, today is National Potato Day. I’m not totally convinced that it is accurate, but since I am currently in Ireland, how could I pass up a day to celebrate potatoes? French fries, that is, chips, are particularly popular here. You can get chips with anything, including Chinese take away.

Potatoes have been important to Irish life for a long time. Back in the middle eighteenth century, most poor people depended on them almost exclusively, so when a potato blight hit in 1845 and again in the next several years, it caused massive disruption. From a population of eight million, historians tell us that a million people died, and another million emigrated.

The potato was first cultivated inn Peru, some seven to ten thousand years ago. Spanish conquistadors brought the vegetable to Europe in the 1500s. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.

There are something like four thousand varieties of potatoes, divided into a few main groups, such as russets, reds, whites, yellows (also called Yukons) and purples—based on common characteristics. For cooking, varieties are differentiated by their characteristics. Floury, or mealy (baking) potatoes have more starch (20–22%) than waxy (boiling) potatoes (16–18%).

In recent years, scientists have genetically engineered potatoes to protect them from the blight I mentioned above, and various insects, such as the Colorado potato beetle, which can also infest them.

So whether you prefer them mashed, boiled, or fried, potatoes are a perfect comfort food. And they are so versatile, being eaten for breakfast as hash browns, or for lunch or supper in stews, or soups, or formed into potato pancakes, we celebrate the potato today.

Quotes about potatoes

My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.–Oprah Winfrey

They who derive their worth from their ancestors resemble potatoes, the most valuable part of which is underground.–Francis Bacon

They who derive their worth from their ancestors resemble potatoes, the most valuable part of which is underground.–Francis Bacon

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.–Alan Watts

What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.–A. A. Milne

Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.–Diane Duane

I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine, except for that, I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.–Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Both sides of my family had come from Ireland in the 19th century for the same reason: There was nothing to eat over there. Since then, I’ve tried to make up for the potato famine by making the potato the only vegetable that passes these lips.–Art Donovan

For me, a plain baked potato is the most delicious one….It is soothing and enough.–M. F. K. Fisher

If shoppers looked at crooked carrots, misshapen potatoes, slightly dinged apples or too-small peaches and thought, wow, that looks delicious, imagine the benefits for struggling farmers.–Dana Cowin

In life, one is entitled to a side dish of either coleslaw or potato salad, and the choice must be made in terror, with the knowledge that not only is our time on earth limited but most kitchens close at ten.–Woody Allen

My childhood favourite is mum’s shepherd’s pie, Yorkshire pudding and roasted potatoes. I remember coming home from school and going to the kitchen to help her. It’s because of her that I discovered my love for cooking.–Gordon Ramsay

Judging foods without regard to price is a rich mans game, and yet poor people can be gourmets able to discern a good potato from a bad one.–Mark Kurlansky

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