Potatoes

We Americans love our potatoes and my experience in England shows so do they.  Likely more so.

A few years ago our church pastor was a British expatriate who said this about daily English cookery, “When preparing dinner, first you start preparing the potatoes and then decide what’s for dinner.”

This gets laughs in the States.  I wasn’t brave enough to say that in England.

There are one or two important language differences to note regarding potatoes.  Most Americans know that English chips are about the same as American fries, but did you know that a chippy is Fish and Chip shop?  In the states we have baked potatoes while our English friends are enjoying a nice jacket potato.

That is a potato with its jacket still on. I find the term a bit amusing as I was taught that potatoes have skins and a jacket was something you wear when it’s cold outside.  Turns out on cold days your average English person will put on a coat while a jacket is something you wear to dinner.  I didn’t mention this while I was over there, but at one restaurant I saw this menu item:

Baked Jackets

At the time I thought I should explain to my brother-in-law why an American would find that an amusing menu item, but he seemed to be having trouble with his new hearing aid so I settled for drinking me tea and enjoying me sausage roll.

Thinking back, I am not sure I recall a dinner without some form of potato.  First night it was cottage pie with its mashed potato topping. I’ve been served shepherd’s pie here in the States and learned that cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are not the same.  Both have a meat filling topped with mashed potatoes.  The key difference I was told is that shepherd’s pie uses lamb for the meat while cottage pie has beef. Never did learn what it would be called if it was made with chicken.

Then there was the fish pie with mashed potato topping and just in case the potato wasn’t rich enough they added some cream while mashing it. I did think the name was a little boring, “fish pie.” You think they could has spiced up the name a bit – say something like, “Sailor Pie,” or “Quay Pie.”

Sunday dinner consisted of potatoes, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, leeks, and parsnips all drowned in gravy. I don’t want you to think that it was just a few potatoes. Plate came with four large nicely roasted potato sections (no skins, er, jackets) which was about twice as much as I would normally eat. Then, just in case that wasn’t enough, they put a bowl of roasted potatoes on the table – right next to the extra gravy.

I am not complaining, but I do think I felt my arteries hardening and now don’t need to eat until November.

Till next week,
Andrew

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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45 Responses to Potatoes

  1. Hope says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had parsnips before.

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  2. Same goes here in Ireland Andrew, at least two versions of potatoes in most homestyle restaurants. I like them, but not that much. Bye for now, or as you may have heard on your trip, cheerio!

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  3. slpsharon says:

    A friend in Ashford talked about jacket potatoes in a Facebook conversation. It took me half the chat to realize it just meant skin on.

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  4. Wow. That was interesting. Thanks for the lesson. And I’m glad you’ll be able to eat again in November–just in time for Thanksgiving.

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  5. Debra says:

    I could live on potatoes! Jackets or no jackets! Now I’m hungry.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So many thoughts here! I’ve cooked a chicken version of Shepherds’ Pie but it wasn’t spectacular. In our household potatoes feature about three times a week. They compete with pasta, and with rice, which I find as versatile as the humble spud. Again, gravy only puts in the odd appearance. We make so many different sauces now it tends to be a bit boring – a sort of throwback to British nineteen-sixties cuisine, which really was boring! I think the roast dinner on Sunday tradition grew up because it was the only day the whole family would gather, and the only day no-one worked, so a good blow-out was in order! It is also very simple to cook (as long as you have enough oven shelves)providing the cook with some rest as well. BTW, we wear briefs, underpants or boxers under our trousers: accuse an Englishman of wearing panties and he’ll probably fill you in!

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    • Thanks for all the input. I do think I was in a bit of a “tradition week” as it was a wedding and family time so they brought out all the old ways that they remembered from their youth.

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  7. megdavisarts says:

    One of the main reasons that potatoes are used so much is because other veggies cost a lot. Pay $6.50 for a head of broccoli and you’d better be serving something really special.
    They can grow potatoes throughout the UK but most veggies have to be imported from Europe and hotter countries.
    Brexit and troubles in France have really mucked up shipping.

    I’m so glad you survived and enjoyed your trip ! Next time you’re over there head up to Scotland for a dish of local salmon with neeps and tatties 😁

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    • We’re thinking of doing a visit north next time. Heather has a brother living up that way. One hotel I was at had smoked Scottish salmon on the menu – I had some of that with breakfast and it was wonderful.

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  8. Interesting post. Must be my English heritage that causes me to like potatoes so much! 😉 We had some young British fellows stay with our family one summer years ago and they stumped us with their different words for things. They used the word ‘jumper’ for a casual jacket that you wear when you are chilly. And when they told my son to stow his soccer gear in the bonnet of the car, he really was confused!

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  9. We call it ‘aloo’ here!! I guess people all over the world are crazy for potatoes……it tastes heavenly in every way….boiled, baked , cooked, fried 😀 It was very fascinating reading about the cultural distinction about potatoes in US and England 🙂

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  10. that is interesting. How do Brits stay slender? With proper meals like that? Blimey!

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    • Well, breakfast and lunch were smaller affairs and they walk much more than we do. At least in the small towns I was in, driving and parking weren’t all that easy so often we ended up walking a lot to get were we wanted to go. Also they thought walking to be fun. Often the answer to the question, what should we do? was answered with, “We could walk on the common, or the hills or we’ve haven’t had you down on that river walk yet.”

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  11. Oh, you stirred some memories here. I remember my flatmate once proposed we should make jacket potatoes for lunch. There was a pause there for a few seconds where I was trying to figure out if he was taking the piss (did you hear that expression while you were there?) or if he actually intented to put the potatoes in a jacket and cook them… I’m not making this up. Keep in mind that English is not my native language and it was the first time I had to use it outside my country’s limits, so there was a learning curve that went on for as long I stayed there.

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  12. jennypellett says:

    I’m pretty sure there isn’t a chicken with mash topping pie. Left over chicken tends to be mixed with ham under pastry or we throw a few bits in a pan with onion, tomato sultanas and madras powder and call it curry…

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  13. davidprosser says:

    Well well, just roast potatoes with your Sunday dinner. We usually have the option of either mashed(creamed) or boiled(new) alongside the roasties.
    Hugs

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  14. dorannrule says:

    Great post Andrew. You gave me a whole new perspective on the.lowly.potato with or without a jacket. 😁

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  15. Intriguing! I always thought the irish were known for the potatoes. There must be lots of English/Irish roots in my blood, because I love them anyway they are cooked! Thanks for the perspective!

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    • At the closest approach the two islands are only about 13 miles from each other. Dublin to Liverpool is about 130 miles as the crow flies. There’s a number of things similar between the two countries. Potatoes are just one.

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  16. PiedType says:

    Potatoes are the staff of life. (Mine, anyway.) With gravy, even better. I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.

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  17. Your description of Sunday dinner brings back a lot of childhood memories for me. My Mom’s mother was English and I loved her Yorkshire pudding and veg-e-tables, especially the carrots and green beans—there were always green beans. Thanks, Andrew.
    Ω

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  18. Chris White says:

    Hi Andrew. Great post which has given me an appetite.
    Also, the British often call potatoes ‘spuds’.
    I adore Shepherd’s pie and Cottage pie. It always amuses me when ordering them at a restaurant as they always seem to offer it with chips/mash. Potato with your potato.
    We say both jacket/baked potatoes. You tend to get offered jacket potatoes when dining out as opposed to them being termed baked. I like ’em good and crispy.
    Have a good week. Chris. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • In some parts of the States you’ll hear ‘spuds.’ My wife was born in England and even today she’ll still call them jacket potatoes. And I love a good baked potato myself.

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