Spuds to the Rescue



Since grains may not be able to keep us all fed after all, how about potatoes? We can grow them in our yards -- no oil transport dollars needed. We can harvest them -- no combines or needed. We can prepare and eat them: mashed, baked, hash-browned, Anna-ed, scalloped, Dauphine-ed, twice-cooked, souped up, smashed, chipped -- no need for milling or packaging.

Worldwide, grains are in demand and pricey because they feed people, animals, and now automobiles. Demand threatens to drive prices out of reach for many people.

Potatoes, so far, are not a prime source for biofuels or animal feed. They feed us, and we may need more of them to feed more of us because grains may not succeed as affordable staple foods when they also can power our Camrys and Suburbans.

Many places in the world can increase potato production without extreme effort. Potatoes require less energy and water to produce than grain, and produce substantial ready-to-eat food only three months after planting.

I knew most of these positive potato facts, but gave them no special thought until today's story by Elizabeth Rosenthal in the New York Times. Rosenthal says, "Now, a number of scientists, nutritionists and aid specialists are increasingly convinced that the potato should be playing a much larger role to ensure a steady supply of food in the developing world."

In fact, the United Nations, which pays more attention to feeding the world than I do, thank goodness, named 2008 the International Year of the Potato months ago. The excellent website created to advance potato production and consumption includes potato history, geography, photography, and more.

Savoring Kentucky readers may appreciate the recipes for potato soups from Ireland, Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, and Tanzania. The recipes sound delicious and use readily available local (to Kentucky) ingredients, plus a few pantry staples.

Either that - or try the soup Ruth and Lisle (aka Mother and Dad) often made for each other on cool evenings: Peel a potato; slice in thin pieces into a small saucepan. Add salt, pepper, and a bit of butter. Barely cover the potato slices with milk. Simmer until the potato is very tender, 15 - 20 minutes. Mash the potato into the milk with a fork, leaving small lumps in a slightly thick soup. Taste and correct the seasonings. Enjoy just like this - or add a bit of chives, Parmesan cheese, or sliced green onions if you wish. If you are lump-a-phobic as I am, smooth your soup with a hand-held or regular blender, but be quick about it so the potatoes don't get gluey.