30th January 2019

On the joy of a single ingredient: potatoes

The humble potato: an often overlooked vegetable, we consume it so regularly that we forget about its charm.
On the joy of a single ingredient: potatoes
Photo: Agricultural Research Service @ Wikipedia

Recently, my life has felt as if it has been all consumed by one thing…food. Yes, even more so than usual. All the books, TV, and film I’ve been reading and watching have somehow linked to food. And the more this happens, the more I am starting to find joy in the most simple aspects of cooking. Like individual ingredients. Take, for instance, the humble potato.

An often overlooked vegetable, we consume it so regularly that we forget about its charm. But I’m convinced that if you really think about it, you’ll realise how great it truly is.

Potatoes are there for us in every moment of our lives.

Mid-afternoon, in the midst of studying in the library, you reach for a quick packet of crisps to tide you over.

After a heavy night out, chips are your saviour: whether you take them covered in cheese, gravy, curry sauce, or ketchup, it’s the chips that really matter.

Roasted, they go alongside a Sunday dinner when you’re home for the weekend, tasting like comfort and a good night’s sleep.

A jacket potato with a tin of beans is perfect for when life gets too much and you’ve got no time to cook anything complicated.

Or a huge bowl of buttery, mashed potatoes when you’re heartbroken or sad.

Potatoes are in every culture: the French slice them thinly with cream and butter for a delicate Dauphinoise. The Spanish fry them in an omelette or cover them in spiced tomato sauce for patatas bravas. Indians cover them in blends of spices and spinach for a warming Saag Aloo.

Even within the UK, we fight over what goes on our chips, what we call them when they’re filling two slices of bread and butter, or whether mash should be lumpy or smooth.

For me, potatoes will always remind me of Boxing Day. A family tradition, we eat our leftover Christmas dinner with homemade, deep fat frier chips. My uncle painstakingly boils, shakes, and coats each wedge, frying them all twice. The pale, fluffy wedges wait patiently, laid out in orderly lines all over the kitchen until they arrive on the table in batches, magically turned perfectly golden brown and crisp.

I might sound crazy, rambling about potatoes, but I’m certain everyone has opinions and memories just like I do. When you really take notice of the beauty in a single ingredient, it makes food so much more joyful. Food is a simple pleasure that gets us through life, and its about time we appreciate it properly.

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