If there’s one thing I have learned about spuds over the past 6+ years, is that there’s always some new spud thing to learn.
Be it natural curiosity, or because – slowly and imperceptibly over time – I have become attuned to spud wavelengths, or because others, knowing my predilection for all things potato, pass snippets my way, there is, in my head, a steady accumulation of spud stuff. The recent few months – though they may have been largely quiet on the blog front – have been no different.
There was the friend from Mayo who, a while back, asked me to give him a call, if I were not “too busy scratting spuds.” When I rang later, he explained that in the ’70s – and, I’d imagine for many years before that – when farm workers from the West of Ireland would travel to England for seasonal work, locals would say that they were “scratting spuds in Scunthorpe.” Scratting meant digging potatoes by hand – not to be confused with apple scratting, which is the process of grinding apples up before fermentation into cider – but technology and the times we live in mean that “scratting spuds” is a phrase – and an activity – that has fallen into disuse.
WW2 evacuees on a farm in Pembrokeshire, digging potatoes the old-fashioned way, circa 1940
(public domain image from wikimedia commons)
On the other hand, modern times have brought us new ways, not just of harvesting, but of growing potatoes and of bending them to breeders’ wills. An article in the Observer last October told of a Dutch project – winner of an award under the USAID Grand Challenges for Development initiative – which is investigating the possibility of using salt-water to grow potatoes (and other crops).
Given the image above, I may as well get straight to the point: National Potato Day is, once again, on its way.
Started as an initiative by Keogh’s, it’s two years since the inaugural National Potato Day took place and this year, for the first time, it will run with the support of Bord Bia (which, I suppose you could say, makes it official). That, in turn, means that we can expect more in the way of events in the run up to the day itself, Friday August 23rd, and greater media coverage; details of happenings will appear on the potato.ie site from this coming Monday, July 29th, with a number of events announced already, including the plan by Sam’s Potatoes to make an attempt on the record for the largest ever potato sack race at the Tullamore Show on August 11th and a 5K fun run hosted by the Meade Potato Company on National Potato Day itself.
Running and sack racing aside, I chatted to Lorcan Bourke of Bord Bia about their aims for National Potato Day. It was a conversation that had a familiar ring: counteract the perception that carbs are bad; highlight the neat nutritional package that is the potato; broaden people’s perspectives on how a potato can be prepared; bring some colour to the potato palette (***) – in other words, the kind of thing I do on a regular basis. So, with that in mind and anticipating the event to come, here’s a little colour from the warmth of the Canary Islands, where they’ve got salt and spice and aren’t afraid to use ’em.
*** This is a rare bird – a sentence where you could probably get away with using palette, palate or even, at a stretch, pallet
(for those who like to think of their potatoes in bulk terms)
My First Feta Cheese
There I was, proud as punch, admiring my first batch of feta cheese.
I knew that, before long, I would be all “feta this” and “feta that”, a salad here and a spanakopita there, and still enough feta left over to impress friends and family. It was a big, cheesy win.
Until I remembered that technically I’m not allowed to call it feta.
Not according to the European Union at any rate.