Potatoes

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Aunt Katie would prefer potatoes every day with her main meal. She rarely has bread with dinner, and eats a well balanced mix of lean meats and vegetables, but potatoes are a mainstay. “It doesn’t seem like a whole meal without potatoes,” she has told me.

I like potatoes. I sometimes make a simple meal of fried onions, potatoes and tomatoes. I enjoy a baked potato, with butter and sour cream. I like crisp baked potato skins, with butter melted inside. Mashed potatoes are good, on occasion. There’s nothing nicer, on a Sunday morning, than homemade hash browns with eggs and toast. I like potatoes cooked with boiled dinner in a ham broth, or nestled, along with carrots and onions, in with a beef roast. Rarely, I’ll make a boiled potato. It seems too plain, and needs gravy to make it taster good. I love pierogi, filled with cheesy mashed potatoes; my daughter, Kate, makes them from scratch. I make potato gnocchi, potato pancakes and potato bread. Still, I certainly don’t need potatoes at every dinner.

I am okay with sweet potatoes, as a special flavor at holiday time, but there flavor is not one I would want regularly. My healthy gumbo called for sweet potatoes. They weren’t bad, but over the years I’ve substituted carrots, which I prefer. My sister Cheryl and I used to always split a baked sweet potato at Thanksgiving, and that was just enough.

When I was in college, and my girls were in school in East Lansing, we were only on Beaver Island for three months in the summertime. We didn’t have time for a garden, but I always grew potatoes. I brought seed potatoes up north with me. I split the big ones, and removed extra eyes. Without even working up the soil, I planted potatoes. I pushed the shovel into the ground, jumped on it to get it in deep enough, tipped in forward and dropped a potato in the space behind the head of the shovel. Pulling the shovel out buried the seed potato. One giant step forward, and I’d repeat the process. On and on until all were planted. They took care of themselves, then, through our busy summers. Before we left at the end of August, we’d dig up our harvest. Any missed potatoes would grow up as new plants the following year. I often carried about a bushel back to campus with me.

A few years ago when my granddaughter, Madeline, was here, she was invited to help my cousin Bob with his harvest. I dropped her off on my way to work. When I picked her up, she was covered from head to toe with garden soil, with a great big grin. “You’d think she was digging for gold, as much as she loved finding those potatoes in the ground,” Aunt Katie told me. For that story alone, I like potatoes!

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