Did you ever hear an elder say bread doesn’t taste like it used to when he or she was a kid? Or chicken? Or wel,l you fill in the blank. It was one of those things that I had heard and never paid any attention. I put it down to “rose-coloured glasses” and a rear view outlook. Everything was better in the old days.
I like to cook, and consider myself a bit of a “foodie”. I like potatoes, but potatoes were never something I paid much attention to. They were there to go with meat and gravy. Or home fries for a weekend breakfast. Just a staple that usually came in four varieties: baking, white, yellow, and red skins. Oh, and maybe those little mini ones.
One day I was at the St. Lawrence Market, here in Toronto, and stumbled across a dealer selling potatoes. Potatoes. Just potatoes. His company name is The Potato Patch at Cedar Creek Farm. I was puzzled. How could anyone make any money only selling potatoes? Then I looked at his display. A plain table with potatoes in traditional wooden baskets, just like when I was a kid. They had strange names like Fabuloso, Viking, Linzer, Kennebec, Carola, Chieftain, Nicola, Vivaldi. The farmer, Bob Taylor, saw my puzzled look and started to explain the heritage of these old varieties and when and where they came from. Germany 1870s, France 1880s, etc. Each one had a little sign suggesting its use was best for boiling, roasting, mashing, etc. Who knew such old varieties were even still available? And, Bob grows nearly 80 varieties! Eighty! I had only ever seen the same five or six mundane varieties at Loblaws or Longo’s. Never anything as exotic as these. And, these potatoes were not all uniform in shape and size like at the supermarket. They looked natural, like real potatoes, with unusual bumps and twists. Real potatoes, grown in real dirt, some of which was still present. And, they’re local. Score!
I remember that first time I used them was for Thanksgiving dinner, several years ago. I cooked the potatoes and mashed them, as usual with a bit of butter, salt and pepper, and some milk. Nothing fancy. Just regular potatoes, waiting to be smothered in gravy. When I cook, I’m a taster. Have to see if it has enough salt and pepper, after all. When I tasted a spoonful of the mashed potatoes, they were delicious. Not just good, but really, really good. The absolute BEST mashed potatoes I had ever tasted. These don’t even need gravy, I thought. Wow, this is amazing. They have such taste, and an interesting texture. Then, I remembered, they weren’t just the run-of-the-mill supermarket potatoes, but the special heritage ones from the market.
Since, then I return regularly. I stopped trying to remember which are which, I try them all. It’s like the Baskin Robbins of potatoes.
The Potato Patch at Cedar Creek Farm (Rockwood, ON). Every Saturday (from 5:00 am) at the St. Lawrence Farmers’ Market. In the temporary Quonset hut, south of the main market.
– Chip Barkel, MCNE, SRES, Toronto Real Estate. Extraordinary Service. Top Results.