I’m not sure how young I was when I realized my Dad’s love for potatoes. It wasn’t just a mediocre love, no, more like a to-die-for passion for this tuber. You couldn’t eat enough of them. Potatoes were a necessity for life. And life with the potato we had.
Our acreage had rich loamy soil likely due to the fact it was inhabited by earthworms and their families which kept the earth pristine for our greenhouse, gardens, and fields. End of April signaled that it was soon time to plant potatoes. Moisture was high from snowmelt, and the ground cool enough for the process to begin: till the soil, dig down deep enough for each hole, place the eyes of the seed potato downwards, cover, pat, water, and once green shoots appeared, then hill accordingly throughout the growing season to secure a plentiful crop. I watched as the leaves developed then eventually flowering stems. Now it was harvest time.
Digging up potatoes for me was a time to enjoy more of my Dad’s humor and partake of his infectious joy in the patch. It wasn’t as much work as it was play! His strength made it obvious to hold the position of digger, and subsequent scatterer. On the other hand, my sister and I were responsible for removing clinging dirt and spreading out each piece. After each tuber was dry, we scraped off the last bit of dirt to discourage germination while in storage. Finally out came the wheelbarrows so we could collect the scatterings and move them to the house. Here we filled pails so that they could be hauled down to the cold storage. This dark and cold room would help to keep these babies from developing shoots and spoiling during the long winter ahead. It was not okay that any get wasted since my parents had a plan for every single potato!
The plan called for mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, roasted potatoes, scalloped potatoes, and … yes, I probably sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump as he describes the many ways to prepare shrimp. There were also the soups, stews, pancakes, potato skins, hash browns, and casseroles to make. The flavor! Since these potatoes were grown in the best soil possible, it transferred into the best flavor-filled meals; however, I credit my father as well since I clearly tasted his nutritious affection in each bite.
I have many food stories where I recognize particular food items and meals that have made an impact on my life but the potato, in particular, reminds me of my Dad. It has been many years since he’s passed but every time I see a potato, peel, prep, and eventually eat a potato I think of my Dad. It is a fond food experience that reunites me with my father all over again; I love that I get transported back to those special days getting dirt on my hands in the garden with my Dad. Those memories cannot be separated and I can still experience his love in every bite.
Can someone please pass the potatoes?