This column appeared in today's Star Phoenix.
This morning my husband gave me a choice for breakfast: oatmeal or potatoes. If I chose oatmeal, it would be oatmeal porridge with wild blueberries. If I chose potatoes, it would be rösti, a traditional Swiss breakfast of grated leftover potatoes fried up with chopped green onion and a bit of melted cheese. As I took a moment to make my decision, he gave me a little prompt, “Remember your New Year’s resolution.”
Ah, yes. One year ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to eat more potatoes.
This may seem an odd resolution at a time when most people are making more serious pledges for self improvement such as weight loss, debt reduction and stress management. But I ask you, how long do those resolutions last? By pledging to eat more potatoes, I felt confident this was one New Year’s resolution that would stick—at least to my ribs.
Why the potato, you ask?
What better vegetable to celebrate on a cold winter’s day than the hardy, tenacious, stoic potato, which hunkers down for winter and patiently waits for spring. The potato positively thrives in our northern climate. Perhaps if I ate more potatoes, I reasoned, some of that northern vigour would rub off on me.
The potato is also the only vegetable for which Saskatchewan (and my own family) is pretty much self-sufficient, which is reason enough to eat more. To kick off my year of the potato, I devised a menu for New Year’s Eve with potatoes in every course. The appetizer included blue potato pakoras, a delicious deep-fried snack from India.
With the main course of roast chicken, I served both tartiflette (a lovely Alpine concoction of potatoes, bacon and cheese) and a Spanish omelette made with potatoes and red peppers. Dessert included mashed potato and chocolate chip cookies, followed by a hardy New Year’s toast with a shot of potato vodka.
I’m a big proponent of eating Saskatchewan-produced food to support the local farm economy and reduce the mileage on the things we eat. And for many special meals, that includes potatoes. Take Thanksgiving, for instance. This year’s menu included roast chicken with bacon and sage stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, roast potatoes and gravy, wild rice and dried cherry salad, scalloped corn and, for dessert, both apple and cherry pies.
More recently, we had a special dinner with friends after attending the Christmas concert of the Saskatoon Children’s Choir. The menu included a curried pear and squash soup garnished with wild rice, artisanal bread from the farmers’ market and cold cuts made by a local butcher. Last year for Christmas, the menu included roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, pickled asparagus and baked meringue with berry sauce.
Every ingredient mentioned above was locally procured.
This year for Christmas dinner, I’m planning a menu of baked ham with honey mustard glaze, scalloped potatoes, roast carrots and parsnips, perogies with silky onions and, for dessert, perhaps blueberry tarts.
Special meals are steeped in tradition, and many families have special traditions of their own. But in our house, every meal is extra special when it’s made with the bounty of this land. As for this New Year’s resolution, I haven’t made up my mind yet. As for breakfast? I chose potatoes.
Leftover cooked potatoes
A few green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
Canola or olive oil
A small bit of grated cheese
Peel and grate the potatoes. Mix with the green onions and season with salt and pepper. Pour a thin sheen of oil into a heavy frying pan and bring to medium-high heat. Scoop the potatoes into the pan, pressing them into a flat circle. Fry until the bottom is brown and crisp, then flip it over and fry the other side. When it’s cooked, sprinkle with grated cheese, cover and turn off the heat. Serve when the cheese is melted.