He found that growing potatoes affords humans some control over the unpredictable mess of farming. It's a plant that's so nutrient rich that entire civilizations have thrived because of it.
However, with the proliferation of the potato came the first monocultures, where farmers filled entire fields with just one trusty potato variety. Some years they were rewarded with healthy yields. However, when crops suffered under a monoculture system, entire societies were decimated.
Farmers today, as a whole, seem not to have learned much from the Irish example. Driven by industry leaders such as McDonald's, many continue to plant monocultures of potato plants. Here the solution to disease is genetic engineering and specially targeted chemicals, not sustainable growing techniques and the use of a diversity of crops.
Still, blaming the potato seems a bit misguided in this situation.
And giving up on the potato does too. I have days where I just crave potatoes in any form. I can't seem to go out for breakfast without ordering hash downs, with their perfect combination of potato, butter and salt.
Yes, it does means that my concentric circles aren't all exactly even because the width of my slices varied. But they're the potatoes worth celebrating because of the sustainable way they're produced.
Oh yeah, and because they're really delicious baked in a tart topped with blue cheese too.
Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart
recipe adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cold and diced
1 large egg
1 pound small red potatoes, well-cleaned and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1/4 pound blue cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Prepare the tart shell: In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour, cornstarch and salt. Pulse quickly two to three times to combine. Add the diced butter and process with 4 to 5 quick pulses. Add one egg, and process continuously for about 30 seconds, until the dough begins to come together in chunks.
Pat the dough together on the counter, and refrigerate until needed. Roll out and place in a 9-inch tart pan.
Prepare the tart: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place potato slices in a llarge saucepan, and cover with water. Simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes.
Arrange the potato slices, overlapping them as you go, so they form circles around the tart pan. Sprinkle crumbled blue cheese over the potato slices. Whisk the cream and egg together, and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.
Bake the tart on a baking sheet until it is golden and bubbly, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool the tart on a wire rack. This tart can be served warm or cool.