I am thinking about potatoes

I’m thinking about potatoes and how at some point during the 19th century, a relative of mine most likely died from not having them. I’m wondering if I could die from eating too many, and if carbacide is a real thing or just a term coined by 90s movies like Clueless.

I’m counting how many potatoes I’ve eaten since moving to Ireland, and marvelling at the infinite culinary interpretations of a root vegetable that I now know is actually a stem vegetable.

I’m reliving every single potato, appreciating each golden spud for the earthly delight it is, whether it’s come from a crinkled bag or a chipped bowl or hot out of the oven with my grandma clutching a tea towel.

I’ve had them baked, boiled and lathered in butter, stuffed with sour cream and bacon and topped with melted cheddar cheese. There’s been baby potatoes, potatoes roasted in duck fat and mashed with cream and deep-fried and dipped in tomato sauce.

They’ve been mashed and mixed with spring onions, which isn’t called mash but champ, Champ. They’re ruffled, they’re hand-cut and they’re flavoured with salt and vinegar and cheese and chives and what even is a prawn cocktail?

I’m thinking about my dad, every dad, and how they all walked ten miles to school barefoot wearing nothing but a potato sack. I’m wondering if they were confused, as teenagers, when miles became kilometres, and whether it was more difficult walking 16 kilometres or 10 miles. I’d like to know what they wore when there were still potatoes to be eaten, and whether the girls were allowed to wear potato sacks instead of skirts if they wanted.

I’m worrying that when Brexit happens, Northern Ireland will be banned from eating potato gratin, patatas bravas and potato dauphinoise. That’s a bad deal. That’s worse than a no-deal.

My grandma had a bad turn in the supermarket today, but there were potatoes waiting when I arrived at her house for dinner anyway. She didn’t finish hers, and she threw them out despite me saying that I would eat them.

She said: you’ll have to speak louder.

I said: I would’ve eaten them.

She said: you’ll have to speak slower.

I said: you’ll have to start listening to me.

She went to bed and now, an hour later, she is back in the kitchen and draped in a turquoise bathrobe. We are talking about her trip to Paris in 1949 and how she and her friends would write in their diaries each night about what had impressed them. She is promising to find her diaries tomorrow, and telling me there’ll be nothing of interest for a young man like me. She is waffling, but potato waffles are my favourite.

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