There is probably no place where what is going on with our food supply is more obvious that looking at a potato. A plain potao is a very good thing. It’s cheap and it keeps without refridgeration. A potato can be baked, mashed, boiled or fried. You can add potaoes to soups and stews, pancakes and salads. Now look at the supermarket potato. They have processed the potato into boxes and bags of potato like substances, well, sort of potato like substances that rob the spud of every good thing it has going for it. The processed potatoe is full of fat, won’t keep well and is expensive to boot. Somehow, we have been fed a line of horse pucky that cooking a potato is so much work that we should be willing to pay some nameless somebody to peel it, mash it and stick it a box for us.

Of course, the food industry needs us to believe that our time is better spent because, the truth is, that the potato is the perfect preparedness/sustainable food which will make money for no one. Here is the tale of the potato I ate last night. Last spring, the woman who owns our local market offered me a box of sprouting potatoes. I took the box home, cut each potato in two pieces and, with the help of my husband and kids, planted the spuds in my new potato bed. Twice, we hilled up the plants as they emerged from the ground. Throughout the summer, when I walked through the garden in the early morning and late evening, I gathered the few bugs I found and dropped them into a can. A neighbor fed the bugs to her chickens. Then, in the fall, Bruce loosened the soil and the kids went to work treasure hunting spuds. We let them cure for a bit, then stored them in the basement in some old buckets. Several nights a week, I bring up enough for a meal. I have had a couple get a bit green on me but for the most part, the potatoes looks as good now as the day I harvested them. The cost-$0.00. I will save enough to use as seed for this spring’s crop. I did spend a bit on new seed potatoes because I wanted to try some unusual varieties but, if I save some of those potatoes for seed for the following year and trade with friends, that cost will eventually go to near zero too. Theoretically, my free potatoes will last forever. “But what your time? You have to count your labor and that of your family too. And what about equipment and land taxes and fertilizer. You could probably buy a boatload of frozen fries for all of that”  That’s the usual argument I get when I try to talk people into growing something. That argument only holds if I were going to be spending the time I work in the garden doing something profitable like building a missle or running a bank into the ground or finding a cure for the hangover but, really, I won’t do any of those things. If not in my garden I am generraly going to be sitting in the shade with a good book: fun, but bad for my waistline. The truth is, I would pay for the priviledge of gardening if I had to. There is no place on earth as peaceful and beautiful as my garden on a July morning, before anyone else is up. Offing a potato beetle is a rare treat for me, way better than a video game where the death isn’t real but the rage may be. As for the other costs. The only fertilizer I use is manure, free for the taking from local farmers. I don’t weed much. I mulch and I would have to pay the taxes anyway. And you never saw kids so happy as they are when digging up spuds. It’s a treasure hunt for sure and none of them would miss it for the world. Next comes the fun part. I get to cook my bounty. Last night, I set the oven to 350 degrees and put in a cast iron skillet and olive oil. I added a cut up onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, both from my garden, and a bowl of washed but not peeled potatoes. 45 minutes later we feasted on that, along with apple sauce (home made from apples I picked along a back road) beets greens I froze last summer, and a loaf of home made bread.

Good food is a gift, one I am not about to let advertising steal from me. I spent about 15 minutes, hands-on time baking the bread (the yeast does most of the work), and another 15 minutes on the rest of the meal. How’s that for fast food and, other than the wheat and olive oil, nearly free and local.

I can’t help but get upset when I hear folks talk about how tough it is to feed thier families when they spend money on frozen french fries. Do you have a small patch of land? Is there a spot in your neighborhood, a community garden, a church lawn? is there any place you can dig a hole and pop in a potato? It will grow and provide more potatoes and more and more until the world is fed.

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