The Irish potato. For most of us, the starchy tuber, like leprechauns and shamrocks, is inextricably linked to the Emerald Isle. But the potato had a profound effect as well on the Jews of Poland and Russia, where it became a staple from the mid-nineteenth century on. Without the potato, in fact, the phenomenal Jewish population explosion in Eastern Europe would never have occurred, according to the noted Jewish food historian John Cooper.
As they decreased their reliance on bread,