This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
There are no keener students of the food problem than the best hotel, restaurant, and dining-car men.
Two vitally essential things appeal to them - quality and economy.
Such men as J. F. Smart of the dining-car service on the New York Central Lines; Sam Dutton of the Albany Hotel, and Col. Morse of the Brown Palace Hotel, Denver; Ford Harvey and A. T. Hilliard of the Fred Harvey Eating Houses and dining cars on the Santa Fe, and K. L. Eagan, formerly of the North Side Inn, Jerome, Idaho, know more about potatoes than 95 per cent. of the growers.
It would be a splendid thing if growers could meet occasionally with these large critical buyers and users. The caterer to great numbers of critical people is willing and anxious to pay for superior quality in a product, for in the case of potatoes the best and highest priced will often be the cheapest. He would tell the grower that the smooth, even, medium-sized potato, could he get quantities of them for the entire annual supply and be sure that entire sacks and shipments would be all alike, would be worth 25 to 50 per cent. more than the product now purchased.
The hotel man wants a potato of good quality a tuber that has been evenly and uniformly grown to maturity with no check at any time, then well ripened and stored. When the potato plant experiences drought, the development of the tuber is stopped. Moisture following this starts a second growth, generally watery and waxy - and to the detriment of the part developed before the dry time. A good potato is firm and crisp, with tissues sound and plump and cells well filled with starch. This cooks evenly and is both nutritious and delicious.
Flavor in potatoes is receiving more attention than ever before. The flavor of the tuber is supposed to depend on the mineral matter, citric acid and other substances dissolved in the juice. Flavor is influenced both by variety and the conditions under which the plant is grown.
There is as much difference in the flat and tasteless or bitter and biting flavor of the potato of low quality and the rich, nutty flavor of the better sorts as there is between rancid and good butter.
Potatoes sell in hotels and dining cars at from 5 to 75 cents an order, and a tuber of one pound weight or a little less is an ideal order. There should never be any trouble in selling potatoes at approximately this size for one cent each. This would be 60 cents a bushel, or $1 a hundred, a good price if it could be assured.
In every local territory some grower or set of growers should be able to work up a good trade with hotels and restaurants. If a superior product can be furnished regularly, the caterer will be glad to give prominence to the name of the farm on which the potato is produced, or to the variety and locality, thereby helping the individual grower and locality and the whole industry.
Buyers for dining-car service on American railroads were among the first to make cooking tests of the crop before purchasing.