Ten days or so ago, Tim wrote a post about unfoods – that is, foods that he doesn’t hate but which seem pointless to him. My unfoods wouldn’t be the same as his at all – for example, when Russell kindly made me a chicken sandwich the other day and put in ordinary salt, it was disappointing because the day before, when I’d made one (the Aga is off, can’t be bothered with a lot of cooking, though I must say it was for a snack lunch, not a proper meal), I put in Maldon salt. The texture makes a lot of difference, though I can’t say that I’d know the difference in flavour if different salts were used in a hot dish. Anyway, it’s been a point to ponder for a while (it’s been the silly season, time to let my mind drift) and I’ve realised what my main unfood is.
Boiled potatoes. What on earth is the attraction? Potatoes are fine in most ways, but only as a receptor for other flavours and textures. New potatoes have flavour, albeit delicate and that’s the only time I ever boil (or steam in the Aga) them. But maincrop spuds, especially once you reach the time of year when they need to be peeled, have nothing to recommend them.
Roast or fried, mashed, baked, either in their skins or sliced with other ingredients – almost any way they’re cooked you can’t go far wrong, as long as you don’t put them in the food processor in the mistaken impression you’re mashing them because it doesn’t work. Oh, and I’m not too keen on the over-smooth potato purée that some restaurants make because – well, I don’t really like over-smooth.
There is another downside to the potato and that is that it’s one of the few vegetables that is not delicious raw. I love raw vegetables and one of the main pleasures of having been the cook of the family for the last forty years is that I can always prepare a bit too much because I’ll always eat bits while they’re waiting to be cooked. I know the pundits have a bit of a down on completely raw veg nowadays because you get more of the goodness if they’re cooked (it’s a matter of breaking down the cellulose, which also makes them digestible), but I like the texture as well as the fresh taste, as long as I’m not faced with a dully worthy plateful. I’m trying to think of other vegetables that can’t be eaten raw and nothing comes to mind at the moment, though I’ve never tried aubergine and I daresay there are things I wouldn’t bother to.
But boiled potatoes. What for? I’d as soon eat plain boiled vegetable marrow.