GM The Journey of the Potato

By GM • Food for Thought • 2 May 2013

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M,G (2013).

In Life, the first unit of the Food for Thought course, the assignment was to write an autobiography on an ingredient in a family recipe. In the autobiography, we had to take the reader on the path from the food’s origin to the recipe. The purpose of the assignment was to connect our chosen ingredient to a historical and geographical context.

I took several steps to write the autobiography. I interviewed my grandma about family recipes, because she is a wonderful cook and knows a great deal about food. I learned a few insightful things about my mom’s side of the family. My grandma grew up in Mexico on a ranch where chickens were raised. Since the chickens were so fresh, the chicken soup that her mother made was delicious. She often made it for her and her siblings when they were sick. My grandma made it for my mother when she was a girl. And my mother makes it for me when I’m sick. The recipe for chicken soup as with any family recipe, is priceless.

I made a family tree that contains three generations: my grandparents, my parents, and I. I listed the favorite food of each family member by the name. This tree shows my Mexican heritage.

I wrote an autobiography about the history of the potato. The vegetable is an important ingredient in my family’s recipe for chicken soup. Prior to this assignment, I had always thought that the origin of the potato was in Idaho. I also thought that the potato had come into existence 100 years ago. So, I was surprised to learn that the potato originated between the south of Peru and the northeast of Bolivia. It was domesticated between three and seven thousand years ago.

You can read the autobiography of the potato below.

The Journey of the Potato

I grew up as a young potato under Idaho’s soil along with the rest of my family. My grandmother would tell me stories about the journey that we had to make generations ago to the very ground that we live under. She would say to me, “ My dear child, you should be very proud of your history and the impact that you have made on the world.” Reader, I will walk you through our family’s rich history. We potatoes were domesticated between three and seven thousand years ago in South America. Our origin is located between the south of Peru and the northeast of Bolivia. In 1532, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru, we were discovered.

In 1570, we were taken to Spain. From Spain, we spread to Italy and other European countries during the late 1500s. By 1600, we had been introduced across Europe — Spain, Italy, England, Belgium, Germany, and France. Around the same time, in the 1620s, we were introduced in the British colonies. Initially, there was a strong distaste for us across Europe. I can’t imagine how awful my ancestors felt with the rejection that they had to endure. Finally, in the 1700s, we received widespread acceptance across Europe and in what is now the United States. We eventually worked our way up to Idaho — the leading potato-growing state. We thrive in this state, because it has a cool and humid climate. This is the ideal climate that we need to grow.

We have made such a profound impact on the world. When we were introduced to the European diet, we helped farmers produce more food and prevented grain crop failure. We greatly reduced famine. We lowered the mortality rates and increased birth rates. This lead to a significant increase in the population.

Today, in America, we are the most widely eaten vegetable and an all-time favorite. This country’s fast food industry uses a large portion of us to make french fries. So, there is a great demand for us. Although I am proud to be the most popular vegetable around, I wish that people would eat less of us. I want the Idaho family to be around for many years to come.

I have waited almost two months to be harvested. Today, is the day that I will leave Idaho’s soils. My older siblings and I bid my good-byes to our family. We are shipped out to a grocery store in Illinois. After being stuck in a truck for days, we arrive. I feel safe with my siblings by my side on the shelf. The other varieties of potatoes are very welcoming to us. They ease our fears of being in a foreign place. A mother is pushing a shopping cart with her daughter walking beside her. Gingerly, the woman places the three of us in a plastic bag. She then puts us in the cart. The girl has a bad cough. They are speaking in Spanish. The mother is telling her daughter how her Mexican chicken soup will make her feel better. She says “ Mijita, chicken soup is priceless… Having homemade chicken soup is very different than having it in a can.” The girl nods her head in agreement.

We are purchased and placed into grocery bags along with other produce. Fear settles in us as the car pulls into driveway of a house. We are taken into a kitchen and placed on a cutting board with the other vegetables. The three of us huddle together. I see a knife and a peeler on the board. The woman peels the skin of my sister. She proceeds to peel the skin of my brother. And she peels my own. “Oh, I cannot endure any more pain” I think to myself. The torture continues. We are boiled and cut into small pieces. Then, we are thrown into the chicken soup. The soup is put in bowls and put on the table. There we are — sitting in bowls, waiting to be devoured.

Sources:

“History Magazine – The Impact of the Potato.” History Magazine – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <http://www.history-magazine.com/potato.html>.

Lacey, Heather. “What Is the Best Climate for Planting Potatoes? | eHow.com.” eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you. | eHow.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <http://www.ehow.com/facts_7547130_climate-planting-potatoes.html>.

Martinez, Matilde. Personal interview. 28 Mar. 2013.

“Potatoes.” Facts on File- American History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp? ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAEH0560&SingleRecord=True>.

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