What Small Potatoes We All Are, Compared With What We Might Be!

potato fin

potato back fin

Bar Harbor, Maine – Tuesday. Hello folks: – You should raise potatoes like they raise up here. It would not take so many for a bushel. This is a beautiful place, very cool tonight. Best Wishes, Bertha L.

Potatoes were big in Maine in 1941. I know this, because my mother told me so – and she was born and raised there. In 1941, she would have been 19 years old and enrolled in secretarial school – because that’s what most ‘girls’ did then. In later life she did go on to get her Ph.D. in Education (‘big potatoes’ for a girl whose father was a Swedish immigrant mill-worker) to the surprise of her parents.

When my mother was a child, school closed for a week or two in the Fall for the potato harvest, because the children were needed to help. The kids who lived in town (as she did) profited by having a free holiday.

Maine potatoes never did end up being the Biggest Potatoes, though. Idaho Russet Burbanks staked that claim over time, and as things go, they do go . . .Β  and in The Year of the Potato (2008) it appears that China (!) has now gained the honor of being the world’s biggest potato producer.

I have a potato recipe which reminds me of Maine. It is good in cool weather as a start to the day and good in warmer weather months – those gorgeous golden summers of Maine! – as a light supper. It’s called

Hungarian Potatoes


1 Tbs. butter

2 Tbs. oil

1 onion, medium dice

1 tsp. paprika

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

1 lb. floury potatoes, peeled, 1/4″ sliced rounds

Salt and pepper

Beef stock to cover

Parsley, finely chopped

Action Plan

1. SautΓ© onion in butter and oil over medium heat till soft – add paprika and tomato, cook till liquid evaporates.

2. Add potatoes, stir to blend. Cover just barely with beef broth, bring to simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or till potatoes are tender. If you have extra broth that has not been absorbed by the potatoes, raise heat to high and with cover off pan allow it to evaporate.

3. Toss a bit of parsley over it all and serve.

Charles Dudley Warner’s line – ‘What small potatoes we all are, compared with what we might be!‘ – is so very true.

But all we can do is just keep trying!

All That Meat and No Potatoes from Fats Waller, 1941


8 thoughts on “What Small Potatoes We All Are, Compared With What We Might Be!

  1. Nice, simple recipe Karen. I’m giving it to Chef Richard at the hotel to use on the buffet. We’ll call it ‘Karen Resta’s Special Potatoes’.

    My aunt had a post card collection, and I remember that a good number depicted things that were larger than life – like giant jack rabbits being ridden by cowboys, etc. These postals were mainly from the 40’s, I think. Americans were thinking pretty big then…

  2. Diana, it makes sense as ‘Hungarian’ only because of the paprika, which can be increased to taste. I often add more. Also, tell Richard that the tomato can be replaced by a touch of tomato paste in a pinch and also that diced green peppers make a nice addition too if there are extra ones around. Ground beef or sausage can also be added (browned ahead of time of course) if there is someone eating this as a main course who needs to see meat in the dish because if it is not there they refuse to believe that they are actually being fed. πŸ˜‰

    Yes, those funny ‘big’ postcards. Paul Bunyon-ish. They fall in a category called ‘exaggeration’ and aren’t they wonderful???! πŸ˜€

    1. But really you shouldn’t tell him to call it that. Maybe something like ‘cowboy potatoes’ instead. The ingredients fit and it sounds much more interesting.

  3. I will pass your suggestions on to Richard.

    How about, ‘Karen Resta’s Cowboy Potatoes’? We could leave out the paprika (which is pretty awful here – imported from who-knows-where) and add a bit of (uh) over-boiled cowboy coffee? πŸ™‚

    We could even put in the word ‘authentic’ – or ‘organic’ or…

  4. You know Diana . . . I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of putting my name on something cooked – a recipe – because there is really nothing new under the sun and to stamp it with one’s own name seems so damn presumptuous (and ‘grasping’ to use a good old English word). Doing this seems to me to often be ‘authentic’ and surely quite ‘organic’ bullshit.

    I like that Richard and you might think of the potato recipe as being ‘from’ Karen. That really makes me happy. But do call it something more interesting than my name!!!! πŸ˜€

  5. Oh Karen! Toooo Late! I just saw this email, and the dish is now on the buffet – ‘Karen Resta’s Cowboy Potatoes’. Richard insisted… πŸ˜€

    But I know what you know about about ‘all that bullshit’.

    Anyway look at it this way – Richard put your name on it – not you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s