Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

2.5.12

Big issues pale into insignificance as discussion turns to potatoes.

It’s the little things in life. The big picture can take care of itself. When the slowest train wreck in history finally comes to a juddering halt, and the fires are put out, and the recriminations are settled, and the retributions dealt, and factional revenge enacted – which could go on for years based on form – all that really matters is ... how you like your potatoes. Or something equally inconsequential.

Currently, this household is getting through many kilograms of potatoes each week, although in the context of potatoes, the metric term ‘kilogram’ has always struck me as utterly ridiculous. A description such as a hundredweight, or a bushel, or at least a sack, would ring far truer. Let's go with sack: we’re getting through a sack of potatoes a fortnight, which - if you must know - is 25 kilograms according to a British standard. In fact, we should be buying them by the sack, rather than in the pathetic little plastic bags we pick up from the supermarket or the greengrocers.

Which brings me to a digression: does anyone in the People’s Republic of Moreland remember the Potato Man? He used to drive around the streets of Brunswick in an old Bedford tray truck loaded up with hessian sacks of potatoes intoning through a loudspeaker Fresh. New. Potatoes. Get. Your. Fresh. New. Potatoes. Fresh. New. Potatoes. Ten. Dollars. A bag. Fresh. New. Potatoes ... . Perhaps he collided with the Rawleigh’s man one fateful day, as they both seemed to disappear around the same time.

So how do you like your potatoes?

Some like their potatoes mashed minimally, simply smashed into vaguely discrete pieces like rocks in a crusher and dusted with salt and a sprinkling of vinegar.

Others mash their potato with pumpkin. I detest this. It’s just wrong. Pumpkin is sweet and potato is not, and the resulting flavour is in between.

I prefer to work my potatoes a little more than most. Here’s how we serve them to the children, who are now consuming 75% of the household’s potato rations, much of it in the following way:

Take several large pink-skinned waxy potatoes. Chop and peel if you prefer (I mash them skins and all). Boil until soft. Drain the pot, leaving the potatoes in. Roughly mash with a masher or ricer, then add enough whole milk to finish up with a finely whipped texture. Trial and error is your guide. Then, with a whisk, whip potatoes until they take on a sheen in the pot. Always do this by hand.

To serve, make a mountains of the silky mash on each plate and press three small holes into their peaks, telling the children you are going to name the holes Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. They won’t know what you are talking about, but they will love the story anyway.

Then, half-fill each crater with very good olive oil and scatter grated hard white cheese such as pecorino over the mountains, and tell them that the scattered cheese is the snows of Kilimanjaro.

3 comments:

Martin Kennedy said...

A potato man (although its a female voice on the scratchy loud speaker) still goes around Brunswick streets quite regularly. Heard it a few weeks ago.

kitchen hand said...

What!!! He's changed the voice??? Is it still a hypnotic monotone that draws people from their houses like Stepford wives?

Anonymous said...


Maybe there has been more than one Potato Man around Brunswick....I remember in the 70s and 80s ,on a Sunday morning hearing - "Ballarat Potatoes, Ballarat Potatoes"...Mum often bought some -they were always fresh and well priced.And the elderly gent always carried them right down the sideway for you.