Potatoes arrived in the Colonies in 1621 when the Governor of Bermuda, Nathaniel Butler, sent two large cedar chests containing potatoes and other vegetables to Governor Francis Wyatt of Virginia at Jamestown. It is thought that these potatoes were a form of yams and or sweet potatoes, not the white Irish potatoes we know today. By the 18th century, the white potato was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by the Spanish Conquistadors that conquered Peru. In 1718 when the Reverend James MacGregor and his Scotch-Irish immigrants came to New Hampshire and settled, in what was called the Nuttfield colony, they brought with them sacks of seed potatoes. Potatoes were easy to grow, tasty and very nutritious. The also produced more food per acre than other crops. In 1772, the colony of Nuttfield applied to Royal Governor Shute to be incorporated as a town called Londonderry. A token yearly rent was included in the incorporating document this rent was paid to the governor with “one peck of potatoes, on the first day of October, yearly, forever.” The planting of potatoes in Nuttfield is believed, to be the genesis of the massive potato industry in America. Today the potato is the fifth most important crop worldwide, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. So potatoes have been around in one color or another for many years. The Dutch called them earth apples. Being that a picture of a potato is not very interesting I have included this picture that was taken by Bill Gekes of his daughter, reminiscent of a Vermeer.
Searching through early cookery books, I found potatoes done mostly in pyes and or puddings. However, I also found them as cakes, cooked with apples, put in soup, mashed with almonds and butter and Richard Briggs, in “The English Art of Cooking” mentions both a potatoes pudding and a yam pudding. Elizabeth Raffald who wrote “The Experienced English House- keeper,” had a unique way of doing her potatoes. She scalloped them, meaning she put the mashed potatoes in a scallop shell. So I boiled my potatoes in a stew pan with a little salt and floured butter. When done I mashed them with a lump of butter and good cream and put them in my shells. I made a smooth top and put a dent in it for more butter, then my own touch of new spring parsley sprinkled on them. Also, in the receipt, she says to put them in a “Dutch oven,” now there’s a controversy for you. Did she own a bake kettle from Holland or is this Dutch oven a new-fangled tin thing. HMMM– very interesting side note. There has been a lot of banter about the word “Dutch Oven” and nothing conclusive that I have heard either way. Anyone out there have an idea about this? So I stuffed the shells and placed mine in the bake kettle and covered it by placing coals on top and on the bottom. This is not the first time I’ve used this receipt and it is one of my favorites, as I love mashed potatoes. They were a great accompaniment to the fish dinner and look so fancy. The receipt for this potato dish is in the Receipt file along with all the others. Sandie “We’re serious but not solemn about potatoes here. The potato has lots of eyes, but no mouth. That’s where I come in” E. Thomas Hughes, founder, Potato Museum, Washington, DC