I’ve recently been binge-watching The Lord of the Rings extended versions and the 60-odd hours of documentary footage behind the making of the films (lockdown life means we party hard, you know how it is) and I always get excited in The Two Towers when Samwise Gamgee gears up for his iconic line. “Po-tay-toes. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew. Lovely, big, golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish…Even you couldn’t say no to that.”
And you know what, Sam? No, no I cannot say no to that. And I am not just saying that because you are A-grade husband material. I’m saying that because potatoes are the MVP of vegetables. Grab a bag of potatoes and what do you get?
Buttery mashed potatoes
Possibly the easiest thing in the world to make. I boil mine with their skin on (partly because I’m a lazy bugger but also because I have convinced myself there is nutritional value to doing so, while conveniently ignoring the amount of cream and butter that I chuck in there. My husband maintains that my mashed potatoes are the reason he married me, but he also says this about everything I cook, so let’s take that (and our potatoes) with a pinch of salt.
Crispy roasted potatoes
I recently discovered the world of slow-cooker roast potatoes. Add a tablespoon of a fat/oil, cut your potatoes into quarters (if they’re small) or eight pieces (if they’re big) and chuck them into your slow cooker for four hours. Pop a dish towel under the lid to absorb the moisture, turn them every hour and you are golden…just like those crispy potatoes accompanying your Sunday roast.
Crunchy baked potatoes
Okay, I lied when I said mashed potatoes are the easiest thing to make. Baked potatoes deserve that title. Prick them with a fork, grind some seasoning, chuck in the oven and after an hour, you have a meal. Adorn your potatoes with cheese, sour cream, salsa, butter, anything else that seems vaguely palatable and you have a winner.
Tangy potato salad
Ever heard the wisdom that boiled water hardens the egg softens the potato? So it’s about what you’re made of, rather than the circumstances you find yourself in? I don’t really pay enough attention to pick up the moral of the analogy because I find myself daydreaming of tangy and zesty potato salad on warm summer days, piled high besides thick slices of garlic bread and whatever comes off the barbecue (or braai, as we say in South Africa).
Creamy potato soup
Potato soup is delicious. You can also couple it with anything else if your soup is in need of a creamier consistency. Watery pea soup? Add a potato. Is your broccoli soup too loose? Add a potato. Got dumped before Valentine’s Day? Add a potato. Here are some potato soup ideas!
Ready to make soup?
Salty chips/French fries
Everyone has a favourite fast-food chain that does the best chips. I’m a die-hard McDonald’s chips fan but the Canadian husband favours Five Guys. In South Africa, you’re going to want to check out Steers – the burgers leave something to be desired but the chips seasoning is something special.
Crisps flavoured to your liking
Finally, what other vegetable gets bagged the way that potatoes do? (Don’t tell me kale chips taste the same because I will fight you). The variety of seasonings…the ubiquity of availability…the comforting familiarity of buying a bag half full of air and the other half full of salt-and-vinegar goodness?
Potatoes also last forever, grow in a bag on your patio and make vodka. I therefore formally petition the humble potato to be declared the MVP of all vegetables. Comment below with any other contenders for the title…