Monday, 16 October 2017

Potatoes

The subject of today's blog entry, as the title suggests, is the humble potato. At first glance this might appear a somewhat mundane topic. What on earth can he say about potatoes to fill a few hundred words, I hear you ask? Well, quite a lot. believe me!

As a member of the potato buying public, I have become increasingly frustrated of late by the ever declining size and quality of my potatoes. As an old-fashioned chap at heart, I like to keep a lot of the traditions I grew up with alive and one of those is cooking the great British Sunday roast.

Sundays aren't what they were when I was a lad. Much of what made Sunday special has now gone. You can't even listen to the Top 40 any more - not that you would want to considering the crap that's in it these days. Radio One in their infinite wisdom have moved it to Fridays. Bit that's another story.

But no-one can stop me making my Sunday roast. Except when we have it on Monday, which is quite often, because Claire often works Sundays. But I still call it Sunday dinner, regardless. This caused the kids a bit of confusion when they were younger and learning their days of the week, but they've figured it out now. I don't see a problem. Munich have their Oktoberfest in September and no-one complains about that.

One of the key ingredients of a Sunday (or Monday) dinner is of course the roast potatoes. 26 years after leaving home, I feel I've pretty much got them down to a tee. At least I had until the supermarkets started making things difficult for me.

The first issue I have is that the potatoes seem to be getting smaller. My preferred choice of potato is Maris Piper, which is widely sold by most supermarkets. They are generally sold in 2.5kg bags which I find is enough for two meals - a roast on Sunday/ Monday followed by some home-made chips later in the week. Back in the day you might get around 12 decent sized potatoes in a bag which was great - peel them, cut them up, job done.

Now, I get incredibly frustrated rummaging around the bags in Tesco to discover there are as many as thirty potatoes in a bag and most of them are way too small. To make decent roast spuds you need to cut them in half so you've got a flat surface. They are never as good if you do them whole, but some of these potatoes are so small it's not worth cutting them. They look more like new potatoes. Why are the farms that produce them digging them up so early? Let them grow to a decent size for goodness sake!

A typical modern day bag of potatoes,
which I argue, are too small.


Not only do you waste more by peeling (the smaller they are, the more you cut out), but it also takes bloody ages. It's a hell of a lot quicker to peel six big spuds than twelve small ones and peeling spuds is bloody boring, to be honest, even if the end result is worth it.

The second problem? The quality of the produce which at the moment is the worst it's ever been. When I peel a potato I expect to find some nice white flesh underneath, the odd eye perhaps that needs to be cut out, but generally a decent, fresh potato. I accept that I am bound to get the odd dodgy one, that's part and parcel of buying fresh produce, but recently it's been far more than that. Among the problems I have been encountering constantly are:

a) Horrible brown mottling all over the potato, so you have to peel each area two or three times to get beneath it.

b) Eyes/ yucky bits deep inside the potatoes where it looks like a collections of grubs have buried their way in and set up home.

c) Whole rotten areas extending right through the middle of the potato, leaving me having to cut at least half of it away or in many cases, abandon the whole potato.

These problems have been getting steadily worse for months now and reached a peak these past two weekends when I have had the two worst bags of potatoes ever. They came from two different shops (Aldi and Tesco) and were two different types (Maris Piper and Tesco own brand) so can't just be one bad batch. Last weekend I had to throw over half the bag away. There was barely enough to eek out a Sunday dinner for four and it meant I also missed out on my midweek chips. This Sunday it was just as bad. I would have taken some photos but the whole lot is in the bin and I'm not rummaging around in there now, you'll just have to take my word for it.

So what is going on? Is there a particularly bad crop this year or some sort of blight we don't know about? Are supermarkets cutting corners, not storing stuff properly or leaving it in warehouses for months? The public needs to know. Or I need to know anyway. When I used Google to find out if anyone else was having these problems, I found absolutely nothing. This means this is either just a problem I have by being incredibly unlucky or fussy and I need to get a life, or I'm the first to champion a cause that needs highlighting.

Either that or something even more sinister is going on and there really is some sort of evil blight infecting our potatoes but somehow the superpowers of the potato world are managing to suppress the information. I can imagine the following scene at an emergency meeting in Downing Street:

"We can't let the public know the potatoes are all ruined Mrs May. Never mind all your other cock-ups, if the great British public thinks they aren't going to get their chips for tea, this Government will be doomed!"

Maybe this is all in my mind. I do hope it's not. If just one person that reads this blog comments "Yes, I've been having the same problem" then I'll feel reassured.

What's the solution? Try another shop? They all seem as bad as each other. Grow my own? Nice idea in principle but they won't be ready by next Sunday and the kids might protest if I dug up the lawn and turned it into a vegetable patch. I could try the greengrocers in town - they always say we should buy local and at least they'll be fresh. The one thing I absolutely refuse to do is go down the convenience route and start buying Aunt Bessie's or any of that rubbish. I tried them once in an emergency and they were horrible.

Anyone out there got any other ideas/ solutions? Cheers.