"The Tyrant Potato" is not assailed ignorantly, nor yet flippantly. After careful study of its properties, its works and its ways, the utmost concession that is now made to peculiar prejudice is in the declaration that, since people will make potatoes nine-tenths of their vegetable diet, it is essential to the national digestion that the ninety-three parts of water and of starch contained in the tuber be cooked in such manner as shall render the esculent as palatable and as little hurtful as is practicable when the constituents are not to be ignored.
The above protest stands at the head of that section of the "National Cook Book" which is headed "Potatoes." I wrote it ten years ago, and am "of the same opinion still."
Talk against it as we may, the potato holds its sway in defiance of chemistry and dietetics, and our Johns, one and all, insist upon its daily appearance. As one weary housewife said to me:
"If I give my fingers to be burned in the preparation of a half dozen vegetables and have not potatoes in the number, my culinary and housekeeping skill are as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals - to my husband, at least. And I am so tired of the same old ways of cooking the same old potatoes!"
Her remark made me wonder why housekeepers adhere to the "same old ways." Why not try new ones?
One hint may be acted upon with advantage to cook and to eaters.
One of the bugbears to the housewife is paring potatoes. It is not a pleasant task, and the necessity of performing it recurs with disagreeable frequency.
The housekeeper is wise if, while the potatoes are in the process of peeling, she pares and cooks more than enough for the repast for which they are intended, and by utilizing the cold left-overs does away with the necessity of peeling more of the tyrannical starch-and-water for the next meal.
A majority of the recipes herewith given are based upon the supposition that she has done this.
Boil the potatoes in salted water until done. Drain and cover with a white sauce made as follows: Put two tablespoonfuls of butter into a saucepan and when it begins to bubble add two table-spoonfuls of flour; let them cook for one minute, then add one pint of hot milk, season with salt and pepper and a half teaspoonful of chopped parsley.
Wash, drop into boiling water slightly salted, and cook fast until a fork will pass easily into the largest. Turn off the water, throw in a handful of salt, and set the pot, uncovered, at the back or side of the range, to dry the potatoes "off." Serve in their skins.
Pare with a sharp knife, and as thin as possible. Much of the mealiness of the potato depends upon this. The scullion who slashes away chunks of her beloved edible really deprives it of its chief merit, and all its comeliness. Have a pot of boiling water ready, salt it slightly and boil fast until a fork pierces the largest readily. Throw off the water immediately, sprinkle with salt, and dry out as directed in last recipe.