Many countries’ culinary profiles are defined by the foods that are grown and are eaten constantly; Chinese rice, French wine, Italian tomato sauce, German sausages, Irish potatoes. But did you know that several of these foods are not indigenous to their countries? When North and South America began to be settled, European explorers found new types of plants and shipped them home. Blueberry, tomato, and potato plants were just a few of the exciting new flavors discovered and sent back.
Week 4 of Dave Raymond’s American History course covers “ The Colossus of Empire: The Colonies”. Explorers and settlers found much more than land when they came to America; they found foods they had never seen before, such as the potato plant.
Some were severely skeptical, thinking these foods could possibly be poisonous or evil. But the peasants of these countries were less hesitant about embracing the new food sources. Poor Italian farmers realized they could grow tomatoes without taxation and did so with gusto, causing the tomato to become a staple in Italian cuisine. The Irish went further than the Italians, soon becoming completely reliant on the hardy potato plant. Because it was filling and stretched a long way among hungry families, they ate the root for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Irish became so completely dependent on the vegetable that when the potato famine hit in the 1800s, many Irish had to flee their native land and go to the country from whence the potato came: America.
Note: Apple Pie, one of the foods that is defined as classically American, ironically has no roots in America and all the ingredients were originally imported from other countries in the 1700s.
Baked Potatoes Recipe
- 4-6 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed
- olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450 F. With a fork or paring knife, pierce each potato 10-12 times to make sure they won’t explode in the oven. Place potatoes on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove potatoes from oven and brush all over with olive oil, then salt well. Flip the potatoes so that the side they were resting on in the first bake is sunny-side up. Decrease the oven temperature to 425 F and for 25-35 minutes. To test the potatoes gently squeeze their sides; if they give way a little and its easy to pierce them all the way with a fork, they’re done.
- Serve plain, with butter, or the way my family likes it, with sour cream, cheddar cheese, chives, and bacon.