It’s safe to say that my father knows a lot about potatoes. He has lived long enough to remember an Ireland where most people grew their own and where the potato really was still a hugely dominant part of the rural diet. “Praties and dip”, he tells me, was a style of eating potatoes still prevalent when he was a boy growing up in Kerry. And no, it’s not remotely like anything you might be imagining right now. Banish whatever images of chipped potatoes and sour-creamy dip have come to mind. Instead, picture yourself with some boiled potatoes, a bowl of milk and a bowl of salt. Take the warm spud, dip it in the milk, then dip it in the salt and eat. Et voilà, there you have praties and dip.
There has been an ad running of late on Irish radio for a new play. The ad includes an excerpt from the play, which runs something like this:
They eat nut roast… Nut roast? …the only nuts I want roasted at Christmas come covered in chocolate and wrapped in shiny paper…
This says a lot about the bad rap that the classic vegetarian Christmas main course of nut roast gets, and sometimes with just cause. Food for the token vegetarian at the Christmas table very often comes in a distant second to main meat event and, to quote Alice Waters, can be the kind of stridently vegetarian food that leaves us “feeling somehow punished by dishes most memorable for their meatlessness”.