Monday, October 16, 2006

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


Somehow or other we ended up talking about potatoes today at work, I think it was the off-shoot of a conversation on the "No White Diet" wherein the dieter does not eat any white foods at all - no white sugar, white flour, white milk, white potatoes, etc. That conversation led to the nutritious value of sweet potatoes versus white potatoes and the next thing I knew we were talking about the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1846 to 1850.

Liz, one of the schedulers, mentioned that she had recently seen a show on The History Channel about said Potato Famine and brought up the rather interesting, and previously unknown to me, fact that the average Irishman prior to the blight and famine consumed almost 18 pounds of potatoes a day. Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle - 18 pounds of potatoes a day?? Not necessarily doubting Liz but thinking she might have had potatoes in her own ears and not heard that correctly, I came home and ran a search on the subject myself. What I found was the following from the website DoChara.com, a website with all sorts of Irish information for travelers.

"By the early 19th century everyone ate potatoes, from rich to poor, and no meal was complete without them. For some this was almost all they ever ate. A report on the food given provided for inhabitants of workhouses in 1840 would have been an extreme, but not untypical, example of the diet of the poor."


BreakfastDinnerSupper
Kilrush
Men4lbs potatoes, 1 pint skimmed milk.The same, with herrings instead of milk in Winter.Not always provided.
Women3 lbs potatoes, 1/2-1 pint skimmed milkThe same.
Scarriff
Men5lbs potatoes, 1 pint sour milkThe same. Herrings when milk cannot be had.The same
Women3lbs potatoes, 1 pint milkThe sameThe same

Okay, so Liz was only off by a few pounds as it appears that some men did eat up to 15 pounds of potatoes a day - Faith and begora but that's a lot of spuds! According to the website, "Many dishes looked on as being typically Irish - champ ( potatoes and scallions, or spring onions), colcannon (potatoes and cabbage), Irish Stew (the poorer cuts of meat with potato and vegetables), boxty (fried potato cakes) - were developed at this time in an effort to eke out the food available and, presumably, to relieve monotony."

Apparently if eaten in a proper quantity, they were considered quite nutritious but these days the poor white potato seems to have a cursed reputation. Dietitians everywhere decr
y them as "bad for you" and encourage you to eat their cousins, the sweet potato or yam, instead. That's all well, good, and fine if you happen to like sweet potatoes or yams but I don't - I like white potatoes - mashed, fried, scalloped, baked ... serve them up in style you like and I won't turn my nose up at them! There's something comforting in potatoes - especially mashed!

Amanda seems to have inherited my love of white potatoes as she was lamenting just this evening that I hadn't made nearly enough fried potatoes to go along with dinner. (I did notice that she managed to toss the fresh vegetables that I had cooked, though!) Despite the fact that I like to tout myself as an independent thinker, It seems that I am a product of our American culture and fear that too many potatoes aren't good for us so I try to only make a small amount for a side dish on occasion. And that's too bad because we both like potatoes and if an entire country subsided on them for years and years then they can't be all that bad! Can they??

5 comments:

  1. you should have made more!

    you could have boiled them,mashed them, or put them in a stew! xD

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  2. Anonymous9:41 AM EDT

    What you had fresh veggies not frozen! Next will be a new computer and big T.V. ;-) 021

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  3. I, too, am a big fan of mashed (white) potatoes, but here's a question for ya...have you ever noticed that mashed potatoes made for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas Dinners seem to taste that much yummier? Who in your family made the best? My late Grandfather and my Dad are tied for first place in ours! *just a pre-holiday musing!*

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  4. My grandmother ate potatoes at every meal.... and at the ripe age of 86 it wasn't the potatoes taht killed her!!

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  5. Send Amanda out here for a vacation. Being a native Californian, I'm sure she would enjoy a week in SoCal at my mostly-vegetarian daughter's house. Angie eats noting BUT the fresh stuff--organically grown and purchased only from local farmer's markets, mind you (amazing what life in academia can do for a county girl). Amanda will have a whole new lease on life by the time you get her back--heheheheh

    I bet the History Channel didn't go into the details about the withholding of aid from the Church and from England during the famine. THAT, more than the blight, was responsible for the death of many in Ireland, and the immigration of thousands who really did not want to leave home. It was all quite intentional. Genocide is a useful tool. My County Antrim blood still boils...

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