June 11, 2020

We planted potatoes at the beginning of the quarantine.  I thought it was a stupid idea.  I don’t even really like potatoes except when they are new and boiled until their thin skins begin to split and dipped in salt and olive oil.  I also like French fries but have never attempted making them myself – they are so readily available out in the world and once, I visited a French fry factory and saw what goes into making long, elegant evenly browned McDonald’s French fries and it is nothing reproducible in a home kitchen.  And would I know if I was eating a freshly dug potato the way that eating asparagus right out of the garden or raspberries straight from the canes is unmistakable – so fresh, berries that stain hands, their flavor as concentrated as their red.

But potatoes?

Shamus bought a paper bag of potato starts and planted them without my ever knowing what they looked like. And they shot up three feet of greenery in under three months.  The potato bed was wild.  And after weeding the plants that I hold stock in – the sweet peas, the strawberries that whatever pea-like vine that caught a ride with the compost likes to wrap around and choke out, after carefully removing weeds from the green beans and trimming back and retying the raspberry canes, I set to work on Shamus’ potatoes.

The bed was so overgrown, the only path forward was to pull up everything, weeds, potato plants, carrots we thought we had planted there.  And in the rich loam, spreading out in lines from the roots of the potato plants were gorgeous, well-formed Yukon gold treasures, many more than I had thought possible, a real crop, a basket of something that completed its life cycle during this time of quarantine.  And now, maybe I understand a little more about potatoes.  They grow quickly.  They keep in dim, cool cellars.  They are not fancy.  They are like bread, for the people, simple food, delicious straight from the pot after a quick bath in fat and salt.