Potatoes were served in creative ways, not just mashed and roasted, but also in soup, perogies, pies and cookies, biscuits and potato bread such as Norwegian lefse. Mashed potato was also used as a starter for making bread before commercial yeast was available.
Hopefully, the store of potatoes lasted until spring, but that was not always the case. One family of Barr Colonists (settlers from England who came here in 1903) lost their entire potato crop one frigid night in December. The potatoes were kept in a cellar dug under the floor of their little house, but the hole wasn't deep enough. One night, the fire went out and the whole house froze, including the bread that was rising on the stove and, sadly, the entire store of potatoes.
"We tried thawing them in both hot and cold water, baking them and boiling them in their skins, but no matter how we treated them they tasted horrible, like sweet potatoes gone sour," writes Mary (Pinder) Hiemstra in her memoire Gully Farm. Without potatoes, she says a typical meal that winter was wild rabbit, stewed prunes, bread and tea. Not a vegetable in sight – until the first greens of spring.
1 lb potatoes (3 medium)
3 slices bacon, small dice
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Boil whole potatoes in water until they can be pierced through with a sharp knife. Cool slightly, peel and slice about 1/4 inch thick.
While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the bacon until soft. Add onion and cook until bacon is done. Add chicken broth and vinegar and heat through, seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste. Pour the bacon mixture onto the warm potatoes and toss gently. Eat warm, perhaps sprinkled with chopped chives or parsley, if available.
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(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)