Saturday, January 30, 2010

potato soup

This afternoon I went out to buy some potatoes for a luxurious potato and cream cheese soup. I chose red potatoes, peeled and diced them as directed, and had one potato left over.

The peels and the extra potato, which I cut so's to have an eye or two in every piece, will be planted tomorrow in an old washing-machine drum I've been saving for this very purpose. The idea is to have a small amount of rich soil in the bottom, add the potato eyes and peels, and then keep topping up with leafy mulch as the potato vines grow. Well, it's worth a try.

When peeling potatoes, I always think of Elizabeth, whose imaginary garden I mentioned in an earlier post. She told me she'd read about someone who just peels her potatoes a little bit thick, throws the peels into the garden, and harvests marvelous new potatoes whenever she wants them. This plenitude of potatoes struck Elizabeth's fancy because when she was a child growing up in Toronto her family was often one potato short -- like, four potatoes for five people and not much else on the table.

Elizabeth's father was brought up in a London orphanage where he was taught the trade of blacksmithing in the early 20th century, and then transported to Canada where work for blacksmiths did not turn out to be forthcoming. By the time I knew her, Elizabeth was well off enough to support her elderly parents, travel extensively, and buy a lot of custom-made furniture. But early deprivation had taken its toll on her psyche. She would always throw her thick potato peels into the imaginary garden where they would grow up to feed multitudes.

My experiment in growing potatoes will not affect our lifestyle one way or another, but it will remind me that one's food supply should never be taken for granted. Having visited the Strokestown Park Famine Museum in Ireland, I know what it means to be dependent on a seemingly humble vegetable.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License