As a matter of fact, I won't be gardening this year no matter how many seed catalogs I get in my mailbox this spring.
I didn't bake any hot cross buns on the holy day this year either. It's an old English tradition which comes up each Lenten season.
But when there's snow on the ground and it's cold out, tradition be damned as far as potatoes are concerned. As a city boy, I don't have to worry about getting my spuds buried in the frozen earth. I'll just go to the store and buy a peck without getting my knees dirty.
Irishmen know a lot about potatoes. Some 150 years ago their crop of underground veggies failed, and a whole horde of them came to America to find something to eat. When they arrived in the U.S. of A., they soon discovered there were more things to eat besides potatoes, so they beefed up and became policemen, pugilists and politicians.
When they found out that a potato was about 80 percent water, they switched to American foods like pizzas, filet mignons and tofu. And you know the rest of the story!
In case you didn't know, potatoes are native to the Andes region of South America, but they didn't become an important food source until they'd been to Europe and back again to the United States.
It seems like everybody got into the act when it came to making claims for the development of the "batatas" as the Spanish explorers called them. Sir Walter Raleigh has been credited with importing spuds to Europe on returning to Ireland from Virginia. A French pharmacist – Antoine-August Parmentier – claimed to have saved France from starvation when he cultivated a field of the root plant after eating it for five years as a prisoner in the Seven Years War. It was said that he served Benjamin Franklin a meal consisting of nothing but potatoes cooked 20 different ways. Ben liked them and became a spud aficionado.
Thomas Jefferson gave French fries a boost when he served them at a banquet. An Indian chief invented the potato chip when he cooked for a fancy restaurant in Saratoga Springs.
They even overcame an anti-potato campaign from the pulpit which accused the tuber of causing leprosy, consumption and other dread diseases. But in spite of its drawbacks through the years, the potato became a favored food source in the United States and abroad.
Let's hear it for the lowly potato which finally made it!
© 2008 Robert F. Karolevitz