Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It Ain't Small Potatoes to Me

I have a problem with potatoes.

Has anyone else noticed this? Potatoes have changed, and I don't like it.

I'm talking about baking potatoes, specifically. The big brown root veggies perfect for turning into twice baked goodness have changed since I was kid. They've become... sweet. Not quite sweet like a yam, but getting there. The skin is super thick and has this sweet potato aftertaste. You know what? I hate sweet potatoes.

Personally, I blame Wendy's.

That's right, in my opinion, the fast food chain is to blame. You see, that is when I remember first tasting these weird slightly sweet baking potatoes - in a Wendy's baked potato. I remember when they first came out, they were kind of a big thing in my family. Mom was never a big fan of fast food, but she had two very busy daughters in school and sometimes it was the easiest option. The Wendy's baked potato was a welcome change from burgers and fries. Plus, my mom loves the Wendy's frosty. So, we'd get these baked potatoes, and even back then I thought there was something weird about them. At home I had no problem eating the skin of a potato. Okay, it wasn't my favorite part, but it was fine - and mom always said that was where all the vitamins were. However, I found it absolutely impossible to eat the skin of the Wendy's potato. First of all, it was thick - super thick, and at least a 1/4" of potato around the skin was thick and hard too. You certainly couldn't cut it very easily with the cheapie plastic fork and knife that came with it... so then you had this big thing laying at the bottom of your little plastic tub. How to eat it? It wasn't like you could just lift it up without making a complete mess. And even if you did manage to saw through it, it tasted funny to me. It was sweetish and just not what I was used to. Blech... easier to throw it out.

But it isn't just Wendy's....

These mutant potatoes are in the grocery stores too! More than once I have been fooled by these lovely, brown beauties only to bring them home and ewww - sweet! thick skin! blech!

That's when I started blaming Wendy's. Is it so far fetched to think that Wendy's needed a particular type of potato? Think about it - they all had to be relatively uniform size, right? You'd be ticked if you got completely different products every time you ordered right? I would. Yet, the potatoes I was used to always came in a wild variety of sizes. Then, you'd want them to all look sort of the same - again, consumer expectations. You wouldn't want too many eyes or too many weird nobs hanging off the sides. You'd want them to be tough - to be able to handle shipping for long distances without becoming black or start growing roots, so thick skin. And if you bred this, you might even use some sweet potato stock, since American consumers love all things salty, greasy and sweet.

Now say farmers were able to sell lots and lots of these potatoes - why not move them into the grocery stores as baking potatoes and increase the market? Now, I don't know if this actually happened, but let's be honest, our food has had a lot of strange things happen to it that has changed it and its flavor - it isn't completely out of the question. In any case, I don't like it.

So, I've changed potato varieties - I stick with ones I know - red skins mostly, but occasionally Yukon Golds or fingerlings if they have them at the farmer's market. My farmer's market doesn't really offer a lot of big potatoes. They have smaller whites, but they are the size for boiling, not baking. This last weekend though, I went up to the cabin... which is in the heart of potato country.

That's right, they even have a potato festival complete with a parade and people dressed as potatoes throwing out bags of chips to the crowd. It's pretty amazing. On my way up I stopped at a roadside stand to pick up homegrown green peppers, onions... and potatoes! "How much for the russets?" I asked the woman behind the counter. She moved her scarf to answer, "$8.00 for 15 pounds." 15 pounds??? A great price, but I am a single gal - I don't eat that many potatoes! The small 5 pound paper bags were $3. They were hand filled and each was closed off with a twist of copper wire. So I bought one of those and $1 each of onions and peppers and hit the road.

The next day I reached into the potato bag to cook up some for dinner. The first one I grabbed was as long as my hand and twice as wide, nobbled and oddly shaped. I grinned to myself - now that is a potato!!

And you know what? It was delicious!

Photo by: Dalboz17
via flickr


RML- Being More Through Having Less said...

Agree with you wholeheartedly! I am a fan of not-so-sweet and more savoury tasting ones too- in fact you have got me craving potatoes now!

Dawn said...

RML - Glad someone agrees with me! Sometimes I think I am nuts! But then last night I was talking about this with a friend and he said his sister made some soup with the new baking potatoes and it just wasn't the same!

I swear, I always crave potatoes. :)

Anonymous said...

Lady D - What a timely post for me. I made a roast chicken last night, and I put some Yukon Golds with it because the redskins at the store didn't look as good. The Yukons came in a colsed paper bag, so I couldn't really see them. I was so happy when they were all different sizes, dirty and some had eyes. I had to scrub them, and cut off some eyes & bad spots - Felt like real potatoes.
You are nuts. But I agree with you. And we both know I'm nuts, too. But we're still right!

Jessie said...

hmmm wow, I really haven't noticed a big difference. I'm going to have to do a bake off with one of my home grown potatoes and compare it to a wendy's baked potato.

Dawn said...

Anon - We are indeed! (Nuts and right, that is.) Yes, there is something just "better" about dirty, nobby potatoes. Not only are they more real, they taste better!

Jessie - Do!!! And tell me how it goes! Bet your homegrowns are better by a mile!

getting stuff done said...

in the UK they charge WAY more for 'baking potatoes' which as far as I can see are just big potatoes. I like to eat the skin too, so little bake potatoes work for me anyway. I usually buy a variety called Maris Piper. they are pretty good.

I do love sweet potatoes though.

Frugalchick said...

I also sometimes use bigger red potatoes for backed potatoes and they turn out pretty good.

Honestly, it's like everything at the conventional grocery store these days has some kind of sugary taste. Blech.

Dawn said...

Getting Stuff Done - I haven't noticed a huge difference in price here, unless you want to buy the single wrapped baking potatoes - those things are a total rip off. Good tip on the variety, I don't know if we have those here.

Frugalchick - Amen! I do the same thing with redskins, and I like them a lot, but it was good to have the potato of my youth again. :)

Anonymous said...

Now you've got me craving a baked potato.. LOL!! I think you're right, it's hard to find the "perfect" potatoes that we used to have! Never thought of it up to this point though... lol!

Dawn said...

halfdozendaily - It appears I have made lots of people crave potatoes. Ah, my work here is done. :)