Saturday, 25 January 2014

Praising Potatoes and Warm Potato Salad

With a birth name that should read "Murphy" and ancestors that hail from Ireland's County Kilkenny, I come by my love of potatoes honestly.  Spuds, taters, pradies- in all their forms taste wonderful to me.  I have had to train myself to not think they should be a part of every supper meal.

My grandparents always grew their winter supply of potatoes and housed them in a special cellar made just for wintering over their fresh vegetables.  When I visited them in the summer, they would have kept the smallest potatoes just for me.  I remember how enthralled I was by these potatoes, the size of large marbles, and would eat them up.  I also learned that the longer the potatoes were in the cellar, the sweeter they became.  Today, I like them cooked in many ways, but my favourite is baked and enjoyed with a little olive oil.

In his heartbreaking book Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt tells about the little boys' hungry yearning for potatoes.  His description of potatoes, among other passages in the book, has stayed with me.  My ancestors left Ireland during the famous potato famines so I'm thinking they had similar feelings about potatoes when they became scarce.  I was particularly struck by the fact that oldtimers could smell the air above a potato field and tell if the potatoes were going to be alright.

Health experts seem to either love potatoes or hate them. Some are more concerned with what is done to the potato...deep frying, for example, or what we put on them...namely salt and butter, that changes their view. However, I just read of research that shows eating a potato is the best thing to ward of later hunger pangs so great for diets.

Last year I planted one box of Yukon Gold seed potatoes.  It was fun to watch them grow and we enjoyed them for many meals into the fall.  And yes, I loved all the little ones like marbles that seem to trail along the end of the roots.

Last night I made a warm potato salad to go with our meat pie.

I used red fingerling potatoes and added spinach, red peppers, a carrot, an onion and some fresh cilantro. Sometimes I add bacon pieces or prosciutto.   I used a mixture of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, a little sugar, and a little Dijon mustard as a dressing.   I always find I have to do a lot of tasting to get a mixture like this right. So good though especially on a cold winter night.