It’s fairly safe to say that, back in 1742, people didn’t spend too much time obsessing about saturated fat or trying to reduce their carb intake. If anything, they were far more concerned with ingesting whatever carbs they could lay their hands on, spuds included.
I mention 1742 because that was the year of the first public performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, which took place in Fishamble Street in Dublin, an event which will be commemorated on April 13th next in Temple Bar, with their Handel’s Day celebrations.
Handel had been invited to perform by the Charitable Musical Society, who wanted to raise funds following the Great Irish Famine of 1741 – an event perhaps lesser known, but equally as devastating as the later Potato Famine of 1845-47 – a combination of bad weather and poor harvests that froze potatoes in the ground and left a nation dying of hunger.
It is an indescribably long way from that famine to a world where, within the past few weeks, I have been sent notices about applications aimed at helping people to reduce their intake of saturated fat and carbs. Somebody has perhaps noticed the frequency with which spuds and butter are combined on this site and would like to do something about it, I fear.
Like a parsnip, only better - much, much better
Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much when I finally uprooted these babies from the garden the other day. I fully expected that my first attempt to grow salsify would not have amounted to much, but instead I pulled some reasonably-sized (if somewhat forked) specimens from the ground.
I still wasn’t expecting that much when I cooked them for the first time, despite the reports that these parsnip-like roots tasted, well, much better than parsnips.
I was even skeptical about the recommendation that the best way to enjoy them was to do nothing more than have them boiled. I mean, surely some molecular gastronomist somewhere has come up with something more elaborate that than?
Let me tell you that I was wowed.
Can it really be a year since my first, momentous Potato Day experience? A whole year since I travelled the picturesque byways of Leitrim to the annual celebration of the
humble noble tuber at the Organic Centre in Rossinver? Apparently, yes, it was time to pack my bags and head west again.
Old Irish Lazy Beds: potatoes planted on the ground and covered with sods sliced from either side
The event makes for a worthwhile excursion if you are of a mind to plant potatoes or are generally interested in the how of spuds. They had around 20 varieties of seed potato on sale, advice for gardeners on dealing with the curse that is potato blight, demonstrations of old-style lazy bed planting, a potato-heavy menu at their cafe and, of course, the irrepressible Dave Langford with his collection of heritage potatoes. 100+ of his varieties were on display, along with a new and absorbing addition…