And tint your potatoes blue or rose or green! How do you know that you will not like them?MFK Fisher, from the essay “Shell-shock and Richard the Third” in Serve it Forth
It was a mildly curious coincidence that, in the week where bones found in an English car park were confirmed to be those of long-dead monarch, Richard III, I found myself reading an essay by MFK Fisher which referenced that self-same, newly identified king.
In the essay, written some 75 years or so ago, the author urges her readers to avoid indifference and monotony in their eating – as laudable an endeavour then as now. “Baked potatoes,” she says, “no matter how hot and flaky, become almost nauseating the seven-hundredth time they are served pinched open, with paprika and butter on the scar.” Well, quite so. Ardent eater of potatoes though I am, such relentless baked potato-ism might even cause me to recoil (and that’s saying something).
We should instead, she advises, forsake the mundane, and bring excitement and imagination to the dishes we create, as innovators now, and in centuries past, have done. She cites, among others, fanciful creations like the half capon, half pig cockentrice, described in 15th Century manuscripts, and which may well have graced the table of the now decidedly skeletal Richard III. It’s a somewhat extreme example and (unless you’re Heston Blumenthal, that is), you’re unlikely to be recreating such a thing in the comfort of your own kitchen anytime soon. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t mix it up a little every now and then, though. Perhaps you will, as she suggests, tint your potatoes blue or rose or green. How do you know that you will not like them? How indeed.