The weekend found me in Ventura – 70 miles up the coast from Los Angeles - and Saturday afternoon found me in Dargan’s Irish Pub, eating “Tipperary Chips and Dip” – as the menu put it: “A local favorite! Creamy Cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, jalapenos & corned beef, served in a dipping bowl surrounded by homemade potato chips.” Thus:
Well that’s some fusion cuisine you’ve got there. I’m sure pico de gallo (a kind of Mexican salsa – literally “beak of rooster”) gets around, but whether you could get it in the real, geographical Tipperary, I’m not so sure. Tasted pretty good though.
Anyway, life being as it is, I went into a charity bookshop afterwards and bought a two dollar copy of Paddy’s Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred by Thomas Gallagher. It’s a book that explains some of the reasons why the Irish hate the English, and gives them some brand new reasons as well.
“If any one doubts the comparative plenty, which attends the board of a poor native of England and Ireland, let him attend to their meals: the sparingness with which our labourer eats his bread and cheese is well known; mark the Irishman's potatoe bowl placed on the floor, the whole family upon their hams around it, devouring a quantity almost incredible, the beggar seating himself to it with a hearty welcome, the pig taking his share as readily as the wife, the cocks, hens, turkies, geese, the cur, the cat, and perhaps the cow-and all partaking of the same dish. No man can often have been a witness of it without being convinced of the plenty, and I will add the cheerfulness, that attends it. . . .”
Young estimated that a barrel of potatoes, containing 280 pounds of spuds, would feed a family of five for a week – that’s 8 pounds per person per day, though presumably in a family of five, with children, not all would need or get the same amount.
There is certainly some Irish heritage in my background enough that my dad never ate, perhaps couldn’t eat, a meal without potatoes. He bought them by the sackful from a local farmer. They came in a paper sack rather than a barrel, and came half a hundredweight at a time, i.e. 56 pounds. These did in fact last us a good while – we were only a family of three - although not long enough that there was any danger of them going off.
And I happen to have found the wonderful illustration above, from the website of the Monolithic Dome Institute, of Texas, showing an artist's rendition and then the interior reality of the first Monolithic Dome potato storage facility, built in Shelley, Idaho in 1975.