Sure it never rains but it pours. And while that old adage could be applied, literally, to the winter we’ve just had, over the past week, it has also been true of life in the spud lane.
It includes the clip above, for a program which will see me passing across the nation’s TV screens on Mon. Feb 24th (and more of that anon), but it started last Tuesday, with the I.F.A.’s National Potato Conference, and continued with a flurry of media reportage over the following days. Though, sadly, I could not attend the conference myself – there was the small matter of the day job, which keeps me in the spuds to which I have become accustomed – I think that the essence of what was said at the conference echoed the same event two years ago: we need to tackle falling levels of spud consumption and do what we can to promote the potato (because, y’know, it’s a damn fine thing to eat, as things to eat go).
The latest development in this respect is a commitment made by various interested parties – the Irish Potato Federation, the Irish Farmer’s Association and Bord Bia – to prepare an application for EU co-funding to support a €1M potato promotion campaign over the next three years, which will reflect the potato’s versatility and health benefits and, if all goes according to plan, stimulate long term consumer demand for spuds.***
*** A note to any spud officials reading: am available for potato promotion and generally bigging up the spud, and for a lot less than €1M too.
As I sat down to write this, I got a distinct feeling of déjà vu.
Sure enough, as I looked through my back catalogue, a post written this time two years ago features a white winter soup with potato and celeriac, and words about the kind of simple food we want to eat in the aftermath of the Christmas season. Yesterday, history repeated itself and I made a similar kind of soup for similar kinds of reasons. Not exactly the same – life never is, quite – but, nevertheless, it fulfilled the same, warming purpose.
I do tire of spud-bashing.
In the healthy eating context, I mean.
All too often, potatoes end up on the wrong side of the whats-good-for-you conversation, as things that we need to eat less of, or seek alternatives to. They are, perhaps, the victims of the extreme success with which they marry with butter and cheese and a great many other fats. From Joel Rubuchon’s legendary butter-laden potato purée to your everyday bag of crisps, it seems that spuds provide a highly accessible parking spot for additional calories.
But potatoes themselves are not the source of this excess and – as I may have mentioned once or twice before – they make for quite a tidy nutritional package. What’s more, they can play just as well with card-carrying super foods – unregulated as that term may be – as with those apparently fiendish fats (though the fact is that our bodies need a certain amount of those too).
To prove my point, I made some mash. And not just any old mash but one that is probably about as far away as you could get from Joel Rubuchon’s all-butter version (though it does not shun butter entirely). It’s a recipe inspired both by Extreme Greens – Sally McKenna’s wonderful guide to making the most of mineral-rich seaweed, and a book that I have been delving into a lot over the past few months – and by a presentation which Dorcas Barry made at the Savour Kilkenny Foodcamp last month on eating to stay young. That talk featured much that was raw and green and vibrant, just like this mash.