Gastrokid Global Glossary – The Potato

Here at Gastrokid we’re always fascinated by the history and origin of our favorite foods so we’ve decided to embark on a global adventure (via the Internet at least) to build a glossary that will explain the history of food to kids and parents alike. Enjoy and let us know about any foods, cooking techniques you’d like us to explore and explain. First up…the humble spud…..

We know it by the low-rent nicknameĀ  spud, but six centuries ago the humble potato was considered an icon in the land of it birthplace – Peru.

Potatoes

 

Legend has it that when the founders of the great Incan Empire, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, emerged from the waters of Lake Titicacca, the first thing the sun god Wiracocha taught them was to sow potatoes so they could survive. The Inca’s relied on potatoes for sustenance (along with corn) and so it’s not surprising to lean that Peru is home to over 200 varietals. 

But while we tend to boil, saute, fry and bake our spuds, the Incans favored a very early version of mashed potatoes. And not just because they like the cream taste! The Incan nation built up huge reserves of food by freeze drying potatoes and then grinding them up into a fine flour that they would store for the long winter months. To do so they took advantage of the elements. Families would leave newly picked potatoes outside in the heat of the day and freezing cold of the night until they have shriveled and dried up. When they were ready to cook, the women would simply add water to the potato flour.

As with so many of the riches in South America, it was the Spanish that introduced the potato to the so-called Old World. Sailors immediately realized their worth because eating potatoes prevented scurvy but still the tuber was a tough sell to mainland folk who preferred to feed them to their livestock rather than have them for supper.

Thankfully successive generations of Europeans woke up to potato power so that today potatoes and sweet potatoes are a staple throughout the world. Our favorite? This classic South American dish – Papas Relleno.

- Matthew

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