It’s been a long time coming, but I figure that the time is ripe to say it loud and say it proud: my name is Spud and I am a spud-a-holic (now, hands up all who are in any way surprised by this news – anyone? no, didn’t think so…).
At any rate, there can be precious few other reasons to explain why, last Wednesday, I found myself at the National Potato Conference. Yes, such a thing exists and I was there.
Mr Tayto was there too:
small wonder, as around 10% of the Irish potato
crop is used to make Tayto and other crisps in the
Largo Foods range
Pity the poor potato. Considered by some, these days, to be an inconvenient choice for dinner because you have to, y’know, peel them and they take longer to cook than your average packet of pasta or rice. Shocking though it seems to me, it appears that the slow and lumbering spud is no match for the likes of speedy spaghetti in the modern-day clash of the carbs. While I might rail against the reductive attitude to food and cooking that is implied by such thinking, I am not, I expect, going to effect any great sweeping changes in societal behaviour by doing so (well, not yet anyway). Meanwhile, it remains a very real challenge for those who grow and sell potatoes to address.
Keogh’s of North County Dublin have, for example, been tackling the issue with their ‘Easy Cook’ line of steam-in-the-bag microwaveable potatoes (though I still admit that when I first saw them, I was, in my own potato purist way, given to muttering: ‘but aren’t potatoes easy to cook anyway?’). As reported in my Sunday Times piece a few weeks back, Keogh’s Easy Cook spuds are proving a popular option for shoppers, and others in the potato industry here are getting in on the act too. Sam Dennigan’s have recently launched ‘Spuddies’ – their version of the 7-minute bag of microwaveable baby potatoes – and Sam Dennigan Jr. himself called to deliver some samples to me recently.
Sam Dennigan's Spuddies: one of the new breed of convenience spuds
Just how curious are you about your food?
Certainly, there is much for the inquisitive eater to chew over at the newly opened Edible exhibition in Dublin’s Science Gallery. The exhibits put food under the microscope – literally, in some cases – and cover everything from centrifuged food, where centrifrugal force is used to fashion new ingredients from familiar foods, to insects, and how we might eat them in future (I’ll let you digest that one for a moment). There’s also a nod to our own particular food (and spud) history, with heritage potatoes being grown on-site, including the infamous Lumper which failed so badly in famine times.