Bar Harbor, Maine – Tuesday. Hello folks: – You should raise potatoes like they raise up here. It would not take so many for a bushel. This is a beautiful place, very cool tonight. Best Wishes, Bertha L.
Potatoes were big in Maine in 1941. I know this, because my mother told me so – and she was born and raised there. In 1941, she would have been 19 years old and enrolled in secretarial school – because that’s what most ‘girls’ did then. In later life she did go on to get her Ph.D. in Education (‘big potatoes’ for a girl whose father was a Swedish immigrant mill-worker) to the surprise of her parents.
When my mother was a child, school closed for a week or two in the Fall for the potato harvest, because the children were needed to help. The kids who lived in town (as she did) profited by having a free holiday.
Maine potatoes never did end up being the Biggest Potatoes, though. Idaho Russet Burbanks staked that claim over time, and as things go, they do go . . . and in The Year of the Potato (2008) it appears that China (!) has now gained the honor of being the world’s biggest potato producer.
I have a potato recipe which reminds me of Maine. It is good in cool weather as a start to the day and good in warmer weather months – those gorgeous golden summers of Maine! – as a light supper. It’s called
1 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. oil
1 onion, medium dice
1 tsp. paprika
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 lb. floury potatoes, peeled, 1/4″ sliced rounds
Salt and pepper
Beef stock to cover
Parsley, finely chopped
1. Sauté onion in butter and oil over medium heat till soft – add paprika and tomato, cook till liquid evaporates.
2. Add potatoes, stir to blend. Cover just barely with beef broth, bring to simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or till potatoes are tender. If you have extra broth that has not been absorbed by the potatoes, raise heat to high and with cover off pan allow it to evaporate.
3. Toss a bit of parsley over it all and serve.
Charles Dudley Warner’s line – ‘What small potatoes we all are, compared with what we might be!‘ – is so very true.
But all we can do is just keep trying!
All That Meat and No Potatoes from Fats Waller, 1941