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A wizard of rifined tastes
 
 

A wizard of rifined tastes

The darling of the kitchen, the potato metamorphoses nonstop for our pleasure

Everybody loves potatoes. they can be adapted to the tastes of one and all. Without hesitation, we can say that they regally garnish all meat dishes. Fish don't seem to be able to do without them. The variety which they introduce into menus is irreplaceable.


Charles de l'Ecluse
(1526-1609), botanist
at the Viennese Court,
went to teach to Frankfurt, then to Leiden

Indeed, in the course of history, those botanists who proved to be ardent supporters of potato cultivation did not fail to provide cooking instructions, or to suggest adaptations for discriminating palates. They did not stop at the commonplace observation made by Thomas Heriot who, in the service of Sir Walter Raleigh, wrote: "When you cook or boil them, they make very good food."

Perhaps Charles de Mcluse's recipe is no longer the rage today, but if it took people by surprise at the end of the 16th century, this was for no other reason than that one of its ingredients was the potato: "...after having stripped them, we might as well say of their skin,? I cooked them between two dishes, then I tasted them after maceration in a rich mutton and turnip sauce: I certainly found them to be no less sapid and agreeable to the palate than the turnips themselves!"

During the same period, the Englishman John Gerard was praising the "batata from Virginia" and stimulating the imagination of the chefs: "it's a nice dish ( ... ) whether they are roasted in smouldering embers, whether they are eaten boiled with oil, vinegar and pepper or well‑prepared in an entirely different way by a skilled cook."

Presumably, neither John Gerard nor Charles de Mcluse were heard by the Italians, because in 1783, Filippo Baldini complained about "the bad habit we have, in each other's presence, of disparaging everything that has not been sanctioned by use. And meanwhile the good things (meaning the potatoes) continue to be discredited."

Antoine‑Augustin Parmentier gave a masterly demonstration when he organised a dinner, in honour of the scientists Lavoisier and Benjamin Franklin, based entirely on what he called "the roots of Hannover". "Appetites were insatiable at every course," the French press of 1785 reported. Today we no longer need to be convinced. Potatoes in their jackets are good and healthy, although, eating them every day could be boring. In the oven they are appetizing. 

Nevertheless, if you have to quickly improvise a meal it's better to cross them off the menu. French fries are the joy of our children but it takes a long time to peel and cut them, and heaven knows that our poor little darlings never get enough of them!

We have to admit that a cook, whether male or female, can hardly gain any satisfaction from peeling potato after potato. So much time can be saved with the potato products! They are our best allies in giving us time for culinary preparations which require care, attention and imagination. With that in mind, the Dutch industralists propose a wide range of potato garnishes. Prepared quickly, they can, without further do, agreeably vary the menu. They can also be useful in less conventional concoctions. However, we will confine ourselves here to giving directions for use so that each product may be served perfectly.

Certain potato products are prepared in the deepfryer, some in the oven and others in the frying‑pan. Some are adaptable without distinction to any of these cooking methods. Somewhat special are the dehydrated products which first have to be rehydrated.

In the deep-fryer
In the frying pan
In the oven
In milk or in water