Potatoes - Humble Roots
The potato is a vegetable that has traveled far and influenced the cuisines of many lands. Originally from South America, the potato wasn't known in Europe until after Columbus. The same is true of the tomato. Many have a hard time imagining Italian cooking without tomatoes, and the same is true of the food of the British Isles minus the humble spud. But the potato wasn't always central to the cooking of England, Scotland and Ireland. In fact, when the potato was first introduced to the region in the early 17th century, the Scots were actively hostile to it, declaring the earthy vegetable to be evil because it was not mentioned in the bible. Others thought the potato might have been the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden. Some speculate that the early European hostility to the potato had to do with their unfamiliarity with the plant, whose roots are tasty and filling when cooked and salted, but whose leaves can be poisonous when eaten. If the potato was shunned by many Europeans at first, it quickly became a substitute for bread, and it's now the world's fourth largest crop. Some have speculated that the potato's durability, nutritiousness and ability to thrive in colder climates helped fuel the population growth of the 18th and 19th centuries. In any case, potatoes have become central ingredients in many classic Scottish dishes. Cullen Skink, the lovely creamy chowder made with smoked haddock, calls for them. Of course, fish and chips would only be half a thing without the hefty golden fried goodness of the chips (french fried potatoes). Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, doesn't have potatoes in it, but it is traditionally served with mashed tatties (creamed potatoes). Speaking of haggis and potatoes, Mackie's of Scotland make a distinctive haggis-flavored variety of crisps (potato chips)
. Even people who don't especially want to eat haggis find these to be pretty addictive.