Potatoes, they were big in our house in the 1980’s. Boiled, mashed, roasted or new. There were no piping bags, garlic or truffle to add to them, they were just what they are – with a knob of butter if you were lucky. I come from a loving household where the head chef, my Mum, is woeful at cooking (sssshh don’t tell her) and the staple dinner item, the potato, was never cared for and was either partially raw or dry and floury. I think I stopped eating them before I was in double digits and could only occasionally, when the mood took me, consume an oven chip (again caramelised into a twiglet or al dente and cold in the centre) until I was in my 20’s and had moved out.
When I was in Australia, on a gap year with my friend, after every meal, no matter how full she was she had to finish her meal with something sweet. She said it was like a full stop and even if it was just three jelly beans (we were skint) she had to have the sweetness. I thought she was bonkers, but as I had usually felt a bit queasy at the end of my meals it was no wonder I wanted to scarper from the table at the first opportunity.
It was in Australia that I had my first curry, a Thai red one. It probably wasn’t even hot as a fellow British backpacker made it, but up until this point I had tasted nothing hotter than a Brannigans Beef & Mustard crisp. I loved it and there and then decided that my taste buds were going on a gap year too, so if I was game enough for sky diving (a whole other story) they were game enough to try more or less anything. I should have drawn the line before sun-dried squid in Thailand, it was like fishy paper that was fishier than a bin at Billingsgate on a hot day in August. But the potato, still I couldn’t get on with them*, I felt very unpatriotic.
I married an Irish fella, half man half spud. How would I break my non-potato eating ways to him? Would our love be enough for him to forever forfeit a potato waffle or a blob of mash or would he be able to slowly win me over by cooking them correctly? It would be an arduous task but as it turned out, after nearly twenty years together, I can tolerate some forms of potato, when the mood takes me, the wind is behind me and Neptune is high in the sky with Pisces ruling Jupiter (or some such BS).
A few years ago I went to a friend’s 50th, it was a weekend away in a big house in the country, just her girlfriends. I didn’t know all of them, but soon got chatting. One lady said she had lots of allergies, including a dangerous allergy to potatoes. Ah, thought I, all these years and it never occurred to me to say I had an allergy too – der me!
Later that night, after a few beverages, we made our way back to the house and the allergy lady was chomping on a shared bag of chips.
“Christ,” I screamed, “where’s her epi-pen?”
“Oh it’s alright,” she smiled, “I’m just allergic to raw potatoes.”
Rarely have I laughed more.
“Bloody hell that’s breakfast ruined then.”
*excluding crisps & skinny fries