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.
The little girl sat at the table, her face cupped in her two hands, transfixed by the activities of her grandfather, who was sitting opposite. He was preparing his usual piled-high breakfast concoction, which went something like this:
- The foundation of the structure was usually a pair of shredded wheat biscuits. Fair enough, thinks the little girl, breakfast looks normal so far.
- These were scattered with a coarse brown powder, a mixture of ground-up pumpkin, sesame, linseed and sunflower seeds. What is that stuff, wonders our heroine.
- Added to this was almost always some stewed apple. Not sure I like how this is shaping up, thinks she.
- This was sometimes mixed with spoonfuls of stewed apricots, prunes, or maybe blueberries. Prunes, ewwww. She is starting to feel that there is something very wrong about all of this.
- Slices of banana or pear came next. Not in the same bowl, surely?
- Onto this burgeoning pile went a liberal pour of diet 7-up – a diabetic-friendly replacement for sugar – which would cause the by now mushy-looking contents to froth, fizz and almost escape the confines of the bowl. Euuuuuughhhh! That’s shouldn’t be allowed!
- As the bubbling subsided, the breakfast mish-mash was crowned with a few spoonfuls of natural yoghurt and slurpily devoured. Our heroine is not sure she believes what she has just seen.
At the end of the ritual, the little girl had only one thing to say:
You could eat a mountain of those…
So proclaimed resident sis, having started to munch through a plateful of spicy lunch spuds. Said spuds were more-ish alright. It was a close run thing as to whether I would manage to take an acceptable photograph before having eaten them all myself. Lucky for you I did, huh?