?For centuries, people have been eating potatoes. The first archaeological evidence of potato cultivation is from approximately 4500 years ago with the natives of Peru. Besides enjoying a good spud at meal time, the potato was also believed to have medicinal qualities and was often rubbed on the skin of sick patients as a remedy to illness. Additionally, the Inca people worshiped potato Gods and celebrated rituals to ensure the success of their potato crops. Andean natives created entire religious ceremonies with the main focus on the beloved spud.
Oddly enough, when the potato first arrived in Europe, the plant was treated with distrust and fear. This fear lasted for centuries as some people believed that it was unholy or unchristian to eat a potato. Many years later, Thomas Jefferson was credited with helping American colonists fall in love with potatoes. He brought back the idea from France to American cuisine, one of the most popular food items today, the “French fries”. Through his support and encouragement, the potato gained popularity in North America as a spectacular crop and a fine food item.
Potatoes were then, and are now, a great food source for starch and carbohydrates. Through the years, they gained popularity because they can be transported and stored with great ease.
Potatoes play an important part in our everyday life. They can be prepared in a variety of ways; roasted, mashed, baked, fried, made into flour and even eaten raw. They are one of the most versatile foods of all time. They are extremely healthy, depending on how they are prepared and what they are smothered in and with.
In the United States, potatoes continue to play an important role as a trendy side dish. They continue to be the ultimate comfort food in today’s slumping economy. With the evidence of a looming recession, American’s are seeking out familiar foods that they grew up eating. Potatoes top the list of the most desired food item.
The challenge for restaurateurs is to bring the beloved spud center stage. The United Nations designed 2008 as the “United Nations International Year of the Potato.” A website was formed to let the world know that the potato is the world’s number one non-grain food commodity.
Restaurants across the United States are trying out new potato concoctions with great fanfare. Many are finding that potatoes can help add depth to a dish when they are incorporated in the main entrée, instead of just sitting on the sidelines.