Sunday, February 7, 2010

"It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes" - Douglas Adams

That is, of course, unless your problem is hunger or scurvy (more on this later). It's been a while since I've posted a soup recipe, which is quite unfortunate because soup truly is the perfect winter food. It is the ultimate comfort food, made all the more comforting by the addition of the humble potato.

As a Canadian and descendant of some collection of Celts and Brits, I am obliged to adore the potato. And really, why wouldn't I? It is delicious, worldly, versatile, and surprisingly good for you! Proponents of the Atkins diet and other equally foolish anti-carb schools of thought have made an enemy of the potato, but it will always be an ally in my kitchen. An average sized potato has about 4 grams of protein, nearly no fat, almost half your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and they're a good source of thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium and iron. Bet you didn't know this beige tuber was as good for you as it is delicious, did you?

More than just delicious and nutritious, the potato has been an important part of history and has shaped our society in ways many of us do not realize. Potatoes were domesticated in Peru between 3000 and 2000 BC. They grew thousands of varieties of potato, though much of this diversity has never been experienced by the "first world". Spanish explorers brought the potato back to Europe in the 1500s, where it became one of the most important food crops. Potatoes helped save Spanish sailors from scurvy due to their high vitamin C content. It was a staple crop in the 18th century among peasants, a fact that would forever change history.

Factoid: The 'bottleneck effect' occurs after a die-off, migration or other such event where a small proportion of the population is left to carry on or create a new population, which is left genetically impoverished due to the loss of genetic diversity in the gene pool.

Because European potatoes lacked the genetic diversity that the Andean potatoes possessed, they were more susceptible to disease, such as the fungus Phytophthora infestans, which lead to the Great Irish Potato famine that you've most likely all heard of. It is estimated that over 1 million deaths can be attributed to the potato famine in Ireland, while around 1 million more emigrated from Ireland around this time due to the famine and other hardships, most of whom came to Canada and the United states. In the 1851 census it was revealed that over half the population of Toronto was Irish. In Statistics Canada's 2006 census, 14% of Canadians claimed to have Irish ancestry, no doubt thanks to the potato.

So I, like many of my fellow North Americans, owe my very existence and current circumstance to the unfortunate ills of the 19th century Irish people. And what better way to honour such an important food than by putting it in a soup? One of the things I love about soup is that it is possible to make a delicious home-cooked meal with minimal ingredients, dishes, and time.

Easiest Ever Potato Soup
Serves 1

1 Medium potato, skin on, diced
1/4 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt & Pepper

In a pot sauté onion and garlic til soft. Add diced potatoes and broth. Tip: the smaller you dice the potatoes, the faster they will cook! Bring to a boil and simmer til potatoes are soft. Blend and serve topped with some freshly ground pepper.


  1. Heyo, I was planning on making a potato soup for myself this weekend! Although *sheepish grin* mine was most definitely not vegan since it involves not only milk, but about a cup of cheddar cheese. I wonder whether your recipe will inspire me (through guilt) to alter my recipe to be a bit more animal-conscious...

  2. Although I'm sure your soup is delicious, I would be delighted indeed if I inspired you to eat more animal conscious! If you have extra time this weekend and want to take this soup to the next level, roast the potatoes, onions and garlic in the oven first before blending it into the soup, makes for a much richer flavour (everything is better roasted, even soup!)