August 19 National Potato Day

Here’s a vegetable that often gets over looked but is used nearly daily by all. The potato! I love potatoes, they are my favorite starch. Mashed, baked, fried, boiled, broiled… sort of reminds of the Forest Gump shrimp routine! The potato has been harvested as a food for almost as long as man can remember. The first use of the potato appears to be in Peru somewhere between 5,000 BC and 7,000 BC. Either date, it’s a long, long time. The potato is fairly easy to grow and over history it has served man well. The potato itself is not fattening either! It’s the butter,s cream, cheese, and bacon toppings, among others, that we use with them that makes them fattening. So stop knocking the potato and use it. But use it well. There are, after-all, a few things in life we can still enjoy.

How to celebrate – Come up with your own potato dish. Think of the holidays without the potato! Grow your own potatoes.

July 13th French Fry Day

Are they French Fries or are they Belgian Fries?  Well, does it really matter?  I guess if you take pride in your fries it does but I don’t think either country gets any royalty for that.

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The name supposedly comes from the World War 1 era when the American Dough Boys went to Europe and ordered these odd things called “French Fries”, but the Americans were actually in Belgium at the time. They were stationed with Belgian troops but the soldiers spoke French so naturally, the Americans assumed they were French.

French Fries had been around for a long time before that. In fact, there is reference to them being served in 1680 in Belgium. They apparently did not come to France until 1789, over a hundred years later. Thomas Jefferson had them served at the White house in 1802 and they were mentioned in a cookbook called “Cookery for Maids of All Works” by E. Warren in 1856.

Since then, we have come a long way with versions of the cut potato that is generally deep fried in oil, although they can be baked in an oven as well. They are called Chips in England and Finger Chips in India.

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There are crinkle cut fries though I am not sure why this is important, I suppose they are a bit stronger and maybe hold sauces better.

And lanky smooth cut fries, like those served at McDonalds. In fact, McDonald’s seems to have cornered a market with their fries, generally preferred over the fries of other fast food restaurants.

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We have put cheese on them, added chili to them…

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… and even made them out of sweet potatoes so that we feel like we are eating healthier.

There are all sorts of sauces we dip our fries into but few seem to out perform ketchup. It is widely accepted that Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the American diet, though it was quite different back then than it is now. Ironically today, what could be more American than the French Fry?

How to celebrate – Go find some french fries and eat them all yourself, no sharing!  Find other veggies you can cut up like fries and invent your own version of the “American” fry.  Make your own comparison of the french fries available at different fast food venues.

March 23rd National Chips & Dip Day

Break out those potato chips, tortilla chips, or the chip of your choice and start dipping! This is your day!  No one knows when it began, or why it began other than as an excuse to add a few extra pounds.  We do, however, have a little history on when the potato chip got its start.

The first reference to a thinly sliced chip made of potatoes comes from William Kitchiner’s “The Cook’s Oracle” published in England in 1822, they were called Crisps. At least a little more romantic, the story goes that American Chef George Crum in Saratoga NY, in 1853 got annoyed with one of his customers who kept sending back his potato saying it was under cooked.  Crum cut the potato into very thin slices and fried it until is was burnt to a crisp.  Amused with himself, Crum sent out his joke to his customer who in turn loved the potato adding to Crum’s frustration.  Soon, everybody was asking for Crum’s potatoes and an entire new industry was begun.  His customer may have been Cornelius Vanderbilt which would explain how it caught on so fast.

Now dip has no real history.  It also means many, many different things… chewing tobacco, an unsavory character, or something that enhances the flavor of a chip.  It probably first came from ancient days when breads were dunked in herbs and oils.  Since then, people have been trying all sorts of new items to include in their “dip”.

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So somewhere along the line somebody got the bright idea that our chips and dip were not healthy enough for us.  They decided to put things like fruits and vegetables along side the dip to get us all eating better.  Okay, so it’s a good idea and is better for us but this sort of anarchy just leads us to a total meltdown of what National Chips & Dip Day is all about!

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A little less objectionable to connoisseurs of the traditional Chips and Dips  is the dessert chip & dip.  While it does leave us craving salt it satisfies other taste buds in our palate.

So raise that chip, or carrot, or cookie high in the air and with a determined, yet graceful, motion bring it down and scoop up whatever flavor dip you desire to consume, taking care that you are not close to a spittoon where you might find another sort of dip less accommodating.