The potato has taken on a little bit of a bad rap, I think. Its denounced as being high in starch and low in nutrients so much as to not even count as a vegetable. It is strongly associated with oil and salt. But, I think this bad rap is just because of the way we've culturally decided to use potatoes, by and large.
First and foremost Americans (taken as a whole) eat almost exclusively boring ol' Russet potatoes. These white potatoes are prized by commercial food producers for their uniformity and high starchiness. However, there are so many kinds of potatoes, each with different nutrients, that I feel we are selling the potato and ourselves short with our current preoccupation with Russets. You know that saying that has taken over nutritionism--something about eating the rainbow of foods? Well, that's how I feel about potatoes. The ones with deep red flesh have different micro-nutrients to offer my body than the purple fleshed, which have different things to offer than the nearly yellow fingerlings, and so on. I am told there are entire cultures in which food culture is built around the countless varieties of potatoes and related root vegetables. But, here in the US if anything we've built it around the Russet.
We, collectively, eat so darn many Russets because according to 2012 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture 72% of all potatoes consumed in the United States are consumed in processed form. And Russets are the preferred potato of the commercial food manufacturers for the reasons stated above. 72% I thought that was pretty shocking. That means that 72% of all the potatoes eaten in the U.S. are commercially manufactured into tater tots, gazillions of kinds of french fries, frozen hash browns, instant mashed potatoes, canned soups, potato flour, potato pancake mix, etc.
That also means that 72% of the potatoes consumed in the U.S. were prepared by someone else-- someone with more of an interest in making money than in my health and the health of our planet.
I used to buy frozen french fries and hashbrowns and instant mashed potatoes and all that until I met Matt now seven years ago. He clued me into what is fast becoming a secret to my generation--making these things at home is waaaaay better and not much harder. They are fresher. They are astronomically cheaper. They are more nutritious. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it really, really wasn't for me those years ago. Homemade hashbrowns had quite literally never entered my mind until I met Matt. I just thought everyone bought hashbrowns in the freezer section at the store or at McDonald's. I'd never eat them any other way. So, it never occurred to me that another way was possible.
So the whole-potato (as opposed to the processed potato products) thing was a pretty revolutionary idea in my cooking world.
By growing (or purchasing) a whole potato I have a range of options available to me--mashed, fried, hashed, roasted, baked, scalloped, au gratin, fries, chips, gnocchi, and on and on. Options that don't come in a disposable plastic bag, or fried in GMO oil, or preserved with harsh chemicals, or made the "proper" color with unnatural food dyes, or over-salted. You get my point. I just emphatically believe it is such a better option.
Example: It takes less than 5 minutes to hash a couple potatoes into breakfast hashbrowns for Matt and I. Probably under 3 minutes even . It might only take under a minute to pour pre-made, frozen hashbrowns into a pan, but I'd rather take the extra two minutes to get, what is in my mind at least, a final product that is superior in every way.
Its just that simple. And simple things add up.
|A potato medley of three colors.|