Sunday, July 9, 2023
Potatoes are my BFF. I’ll tell you why.
Potatoes go with everything. Meat. Vegetables. Breakfast. Dinner.
They can be turned into pasta. They make excellent soup.
They can be fried, baked, boiled, stuffed.
They can even be eaten raw. As a kid, it was a treat to get a bit of potato as mom was cooking dinner. She would peel a piece and cut it off and hand it to at least a few of us who ate them freshly washed from the sink, just like that.
That crunch! That juicy coolness!
Do you know what potatoes do not do? They do not make you fat. True.
For a portion of my life I avoided potatoes, poor, maligned potatoes! Potatoes were not healthy! Potatoes were bad for your diet!
Much like everything else “they” told you, it was merely a bad marketing plan. Low fat milk turned out to be unnecessary. Low sugar cookies were just trans fat in disguise. One day chocolate was your enemy, the next it was keeping you young.
Lesson: believe almost nothing about what “they” tell you about food. “They” are not very smart and “they” are just jealous people who want to keep you separated from your true love, potatoes.
Turns out potatoes are excellently healthy, most especially if you eat the skin, which is really the most delicious part anyway. Why do you think entire menu sections are dedicated to potato skins? Because they are fantastically delicious, that’s why.
I don’t know when I rekindled my love affair with potatoes but trust me, the breakup didn’t last long. It only lasted long enough for me to wail and gnash my teeth a bit, empty teeth, with no potato to munch on.
Then I said, fie! Fie on you, who keep me from my potato! And I inserted it back into my life, with eggs, with meatloaf, as a delivery mechanism for chili. As the star of its own salad or the backdrop for a plate of Use Up All The Leftovers Hash.
I felt compelled to write this ode to potatoes today because now that I’ve gotten into a groove with healthy eating, I am reminded that potatoes are, indeed, the best friend of a person who has cut out grain-based carbs.
Why? Because grain-based carbs actually do make you fat. Or me, anyway. But not potatoes! I can eat them day and night and they will not be rude and overstay their welcome.
I’ve been eating a lot of potatoes lately.
Did you know that potatoes are grown in all 50 states? I feel an adventure coming on: eat a potato from every state. A worthy challenge! There is actually a potato museum in… guess which state?
They are grown in about 125 different countries, too.
Potatoes were the first vegetable to be grown in space, making them not only international but interstellar.
I discovered a game-changing companion for potatoes recently: Greek yogurt flavored with just about anything. Dill and chives. Lime and cilantro. Cumin. Za’atar. Ranch seasoning that I make from scratch because it is ridiculously delicious and doesn’t have all the added junk like the store bought kind.
Every day I make myself a baked potato for lunch and then put a dollop of some deliciously flavored yogurt on top. My potato is very happy with this development. To be fair, I make myself a microwaved potato because it takes about four minutes as opposed to 45 in the oven, and minus a bit of crunch in the skin, it’s just as effective.
Back in the late 1700s, the French were all snooty about potatoes and found them very gauche. But potatoes were so healthy that a notable physician at the time wanted to get them onto people’s plates. So he enlisted the help of Marie Antoinette.
Celebrity culture was strong even back then, even without Instagram and selfies. All it took was Marie Antoinette wearing potato blossoms in her hair for people to find a reverence for potatoes.
In other news, potatoes have blossoms.
This is something I never knew. Naturally I had to find out if you could get potato blossom honey, but apparently potato blossoms aren’t a bee’s thing. Seems bees don’t pay them much attention.
Potatoes are incredibly forgiving. You can char them a bit and they won’t mind. You can underbake them and they are just as good. You can slice, dice, mash or julienne them and they will be spectacular every time.
They are a friend of cocktail enthusiasts, as they can be used to make vodka and aquavit.
There are so many kinds and colors of potatoes that it would be sad if all you ever ate were the supermarket russet kind. They are gold and brown and yellowish and orangeish and purple and blue and red. They are round and oval and fat and thin. They are huge and they are tiny.
Americans consume an average of 120 pounds of potatoes each year. That means for every person like me, there is one who doesn’t eat potatoes at all. Those are crazy people and you should not invite them to dinner.
Potatoes may make you think of Ireland but the earliest cultivation of potatoes dates back to 10,000 BC in Peru.
They will also grow quite well in your pantry.
Potatoes are like the vegetable version of clouds. You can find all sorts of shapes in them. I am often too busy cooking them to stop and photograph them but next to eating a potato from every state, this sounds like the second most worthy project: creating potato art.
A loving potato, highly appropriate.
And an adorable potato family.
Speaking of art, potatoes make excellent stamps for paint or ink. Every kid should, at least once in their lives, get creative with a die cut potato.
And every adult should make food art out of them for their dinner plates. Hasselback potatoes are as beautiful as they are delicious.
Potatoes are always up for a good time, too. You can play hot potato. Or count one-potato-two-potato. If you’re feeling up for a little exercise you can dance the mashed potato. Or you can go with the playground favorite, Spud.
Does broccoli get games and dance moves named after it? I think not!
As far as I know, potatoes are the only vegetable that gets to wear mustaches and little black hats. Mr. Eggplant just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?
Being a couch potato on a Sunday is a very good thing. It gave me time to ponder this miraculous addition to the universe and appreciate it in its many permutations. Now that it’s dinnertime, I believe there is some yogurt and a spud calling my name.
Photo, top: a glorious loaded potato in all its guilt-free deliciousness.
Photo, bottom: my happy potato face at the Farmers Market when the potato guy is in town.