Saturday, April 11, 2009

Praise for the Humble Potato

Potatoes have received a bad reputation of late for being unhealthy, largely because of their high starch content, and thus their high glycemic index. However, like so many unhealthy things, the real problem with them is eating them in excess, rather than eating them at all.

In lean times, when food is hard to come by, potatoes can be a very useful way to stretch otherwise inadequate food supplies to make a complete meal. For instance, you have a roast on Monday, and the left-over piece isn't big enough to give everyone a full-sized portion. Or you get a round steak at the food pantry which isn't quite big enough to go around. Instead of giving up, or tucking it away for some day when some family members are absent, you can cut the meat up into chunks and stew it with two or three potatoes cut up into cubes. Slice up a few carrots to give everyone a vegetable serving, chop an onion for flavor, and you have a complete meal in a single skillet.

Potatoes can also help extend a soup or stew when unexpected guests turn up close to mealtime. My great-grandmother, who raised a brood of nine on a carpenter's wages, never worried when one of her children had a friend over to play and suppertime approached. She'd just peel an extra potato (or two if several little friends showed up) and add it to the pot, and the meal would now stretch to feed everyone without anybody feeling like they were getting shorted or overstaying their welcome.

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