A serendipitous look though the sorting shelves at my local library led me to The Great Potato Book, which can only be described as raising food fetishism to a new height. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
Beautifully photographed and printed on glossy stock, The Great Potato Book presents the humble potato’s history, recipes and an index of potato varieties you have probably never seen. Each description offers appropriate users for the particular variety as well as possible substitutions if you can’t find a certain type in your area. Several recipes caught my eye immediately, including the Italian Potato Pie, Potato-Onion Focaccua and Bacon-Potato Cake.
If I were a collector of food books, The Great Potato Book would certainly find its way onto my bookshelves, or more likely, onto my coffee table, since it is so beautifully designed. Of course, owning this book would make it clear to all your friends that your truly are a “foodie” to the highest degree. For the gardener’s among us, the book gives us images of perfection to strive for in your own garden. You may never reach such heights, but it is always good to have something for which to strive.
Despite its glossiness, the book brought back some pleasant memories of planting and harvesting potatoes with my grandma, many years ago. She planted a half-acre of garden until she was well into her 70’s and taught me most everything I know about gardening.
Each year we would take seed potatoes left over from the previous year and cut them into sections, each containing an eye, These were loaded into peck baskets made of wicker and carried out to the back of her property, where the garden existed. The soil would have been prepared until it was deep and soft, and a dark, chocolate brown. We would then create a long straight row, using the ancient hand cultivator that seemed to belong to a previous century. It looked like a miniature plow with a large metal wheel at the front and wheelbarrow-like handles at the rear. Each of us would then heft a basket and begin walking down the row, dropping potatoes at regular intervals, then stepping on each one to seat it in the soil. Then we would carefully “hill up” each row, giving the new potatoes plenty of room to grow.
Later in the Summer, and into the cold Fall, we would make regular trips out to the garden to gather potatoes for our usual Sunday family supper. It was always amazing to put the garden fork into a seemingly dead part of the garden and turn up a hidden bounty.
Despite the typical attacks of potato bugs, dry weather, wet weather and more, I have no memory of Grandma ever buying potatoes. I guess her garden, and her gardening knowledge, made it relatively easy to provide more than enough for everyone.
Food as fetish, food as art and food as memory. Any book that can serve in all these ways is certainly worth a look.
More 2012 Gift Guide Items:
- Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
- Bulb Planting Tools
- Blue Snowball Microphone
- Seagate Backup Plus 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
- Logitech C920 HD Web Cam
- We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
- Sunset Western Garden Book – New Edition for 2012
- The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings
- Garden Mysteries by Anthony Eglin
- The Creative Habit/The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp
- Moleskeine Journals
- Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month
- Podcasting for Dummies/Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies
- Wacom Bamboo Splash Pen Tablet
- Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead
- The $64 Tomato
- Blue Yeti Microphone
- BioLite CampStove/HomeStove
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- The Curious Gardener
- Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
- GoPro HD HERO 3
- Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart
- The Starfish and the Spider by Orj Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
- Microphone Boom Arms
- The Information by James Gleick
- Handy Farm Devices And How To Make Them (1909)
- Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas
- Apple iPhone 5
- Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod
- Killer Ratings by Lisa Seidman
- Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon
- Zoom Portable Recorders (H1, H2, H2n, H4n)
- Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
- My Teenager’s Favorite Games
- The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness
- In a Mexican Garden: courtyards, pools and open-air living rooms
- Fields of Plenty: A farmer’s journey in search of real food and the people who grow it
- Apple iPad/iPad Mini
- The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam
- Cucina Rustica