I will think of it hereafter as The Great Potato Standoff of 2013.
The white-haired gentleman had, in my absence, clutched one of my two packets of Lumpers and was peering somewhat demandingly in my direction.
“Well, are they for sale or aren’t they?” he said. It was more challenge than question. He repeated it several times.
Startled, I hemmed and hawed my way through explaining to this man (and assembled others, who were now also desirous to establish the for-saleness of said spuds) that these Lumpers were not, in fact, for sale. They were samples I had brought along for the curious to see at this, Sonairte’s Potato Day. I had suspected that – given recent media coverage of the commercial re-cultivation of this Famine-era potato – that they would be a talking point. It seemed a nice, oh-wouldn’t-that-be-interesting kind of thing to do, but to say that the aforementioned gentleman was peeved at being unable to secure these particular potatoes would be somewhat of an understatement.
He had heard it on the Mooney Show, you see. Talk of the event at Sonairte and of old varieties and of Lumpers and of potato seed for sale. He came to the reasonable – but, alas for him, incorrect – conclusion, that the available seed stock would include Lumpers. Sure hadn’t he gotten in his car and come all the way from Cavan, specifically to secure Lumper seed, so that he could plant and grow them for all the family. By not selling the Lumpers, I had, albeit unwittingly, dashed his plans and ruined his day. Not to mention missing the chance to make a few bob for myself in the process. Sheesh. I had visions of him calling Liveline to complain.
There was no opportunity to explain that, in an ideal world, I would have consigned the Lumpers, to which this man was holding fast, to a pot of boiling water, to be cooked and eaten by any and all – as we had been able to do a couple of weeks back at the Organic Centre’s Potato Day. As that hadn’t been possible here, the next, but, as it turns out, unintentionally fraught thing to do was to leave the tubers on display, which, in this fellow’s case, served only to taunt.
In the end, my attempt to placate the unlucky gentleman with the offer of a handful of Lumpers was met with disdain. “Sure that’s no good. I wanted enough for the family.” Big family, I thought, if the spuds from growing the five offered seeds would not provide enough to go around the dinner table at least once. I tried to give a few to his wife while he wasn’t looking but I guess that she knew what his reaction would be, and declined.
And the moral of the story? Never, ever underestimate how fanatical people can get about potatoes. Dave Langford, whose knowledge of, and enthusiasm for the spud enthralled the attendees at Sonairte yesterday, would, I’m sure, agree.
One to watch…
Speaking of potatoes (as is my wont), they will feature as part of a new six-part series starting at 9.30pm this coming Thursday on TG4. Bia Dúchais (Our Native Food), made by Marmalade Films, explores our Irish food heritage and the history of our relationship with some of the staples that have sustained us down through the centuries, from potatoes, pork and salmon to grains, honey and cheese. It’s a nicely shot, thoughtful series, with each episode featuring contributions from historians, food producers and chefs. Well worth a look, I’d say.