‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the ‘net,
They googled for roasties, the best they could get.
Which spud to choose, to avoid roastie blunders?
Roosters or Pinks, Maris or Wonders?
Goose fat or dripping? Oil or butter?
Who reigns supreme, in the smoke and the splutter?
And lo, there’s Heston, Jamie and crew,
All armed with advice on just what to do.
Parboil and ruffle, steam ’til they’re dry,
Then into the oven and roast ’em on high.
Serve with the trimmings, the turkey and ham,
Piled onto the plate in a glorious cram.
Feast yourself silly, with roasties galore,
Crispy and Christmas and here once more.
You know it’s Christmas when…
You’ll forgive, I hope, the indulgence in a bit of cheesy seasonal rhyme. It marks this year’s edition of an event that has become almost as predictable as Christmas itself – the Daily Spud roastie post.
It was a mighty busy week last week and no mistake. Amongst the various goings on, yours truly featured in last Friday’s installment of Dublin City FM‘s Sodshow with Peter Donegan, to which you can listen back below (and, yes, the interview was recorded much earlier this year – at Sonairte‘s Potato Day – hence the springtime talk of potatoes chitting in my hallway).
Curiously enough, it was when I reemerged from the recording of said interview that I stumbled into what I later christened The Great Potato Standoff of 2013 – an incident which had everything to do with the feverish interest generated by the return of the Lumper potato last March. And, as I learned this week, those newly-resurrected Famine-era spuds are far from a flash in the pan…
A feed of Lumpers
Back in March of this year, Marks & Spencer Ireland announced a limited three week run of Lumpers, grown for them by Michael McKillop of Glens of Antrim Potatoes. It signalled the first time that the Lumper potato – which had been the mainstay of the Irish peasant farmer in the pre-Famine era, and which had succumbed in such devastating fashion to the onslaught of blight in 1845 – had been grown in any kind of significant quantity in Ireland in around 170 years.
We were chatting about potatoes in East Africa, as you do.
“They call them Irish,” said Shane, who was manning the reception desk in Dublin’s Irish Aid Voluteering & Information Centre. I had called in because the centre, in conjunction with Irish aid charity Vita, had been hosting a potato-themed photographic exhibition and related events around last month’s World Food Day.
Shane had spent a good deal of time in various East African countries where – most likely due to the presence of Irish missionaries and aid workers down through the years – “Irish” had become a synonym for potatoes (in much the same way that, when it arrived in Ireland first, the potato was often referred to as An Spáinneach – meaning the Spaniard – as it was they who had introduced the tuber to Europe). And while the potato is a largely non-traditional African crop, the vegetable which kept Irish populations fed for centuries – except, famously, when it didn’t, of course – is one which, it turns out, has a lot to offer countries in the African region.
Map showing the true size of Africa by Kai Krause. ‘Tis big alright.
(image in the public domain)
The potato is more efficient, more nutritious, and more profitable than any other staple crop… and is ideally suited to places where land is limited and labor abundant – conditions that characterize much of the developing world.