Potatoes in Cookery

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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This is a ramified subject since the potato is so versatile and has become almost ubiquitous in the world, thus exposing itself to a wide range of cuisines in all five continents.

Potatoes arouse strong passions, not the sort which the aphrodisiac properties which potatoes have been supposed to have but do not in fact possess, but partisan passions. Some think mashed potatoes with good milk and butter are incomparable, and so they are for certain dishes (bangers and mash). Others claim with justifiable confidence that plain boiled potatoes if done with the skilful techniques of the Irish (drain when cooked, leave to rest a few minutes in the pot with a clean teacloth on top, and shake slightly) are the best of all. Untold and unthinking hordes would assert that chips/frites/french fries have no real competition, although their assertions might falter if they were introduced to the golden-topped butter-and-cream enriched slices which are scalloped potatoes. So-called ‘gourmets’ may think that Parisienne potatoes have no equal (except, possibly, the most delicate croquettes), while Alpine skiers, comparing notes in mountain huts, will give the palm to Swiss rösti. In the few families where a Sunday roast is still served, highest praise would go to mother’s roast potatoes, but her offspring might be silently thinking that they prefer jacket potatoes with a dash of yoghurt.