Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Polite Potatoes.

January 9

I am devastated. Humiliated even. I wish to apologise retrospectively to all my dinner guests over the years. I have belatedly read the advice (96 year old advice!) that would have saved me from several decades of social ineptitude.

I have served impolite potatoes for decades.

The Potato: A compilation of Information from every available source (1912) advises that “In polite society, potatoes are only admitted “en robe de chambre”, - that is to say, in their jackets – to the midday meal and then not on formal occasions. At such time the following are used …. ”

The book goes on to give a number of extraordinarily polite potato recipes, starting with this one:

Potato Georgette.
Special recipe of M. Joseph, chef of the Cafe Paillard:
Take a potato and hollow it out, filling the hollow with a salpicon of shrimp tails drenched in a bisque sauce made from the heads and pounded bodies of the shrimps. Cover the potato with some of the mashed insides and bake very well done and serve hot.

Somewhat later in the polite section is a familiar recipe:

Potatoes Julienne (Shoestring Potatoes)
Cut raw into very fine shreds like straws, cook quickly in hot lard, dust with fine salt.

Followed by a very unfamiliar (to me) and most intriguingly named dish:

Between the Acts Potatoes.
Same as Julienne, only about twice as large.

The name? Does this mean French Fries during the interval at the theatre?

From another book about The Irish Potato (1914) by Jessie Pinning Rich, from the University of Texas in 1914 we have a rather more homely approach – a recipe which sounds like a great way to use up leftover potatoes - but whatever you do, don’t serve them to guests if you move in polite society, it sounds a little rustic and, well, leftover.

Waldorf Potatoes.
Cut cold boiled potatoes into cubes and mix one cup of potatoes and one-half cup of cream sauce, having previously added four tablespoons of grated cheese. Pour over potatoes and heat slowly without boiling.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Poorhouse or Prison?

Quotation for the Day …

Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food. For wisdom and guidance, for all these are good. But don’t forget the potatoes. John Tyler Petee.

2 comments:

gAstronomer said...

my dear Foodie,

i do not know if you are a reader of Miss Manners (aka Judith Martin; if you are not, I have a strong feeling that you will enjoy the various book collections of her columns), but in one of her essays in her Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior she argues that similar is true for bread. that is, for some reason, bread should never be served at formal dinners.

perhaps she means only those formal dinners which adhere to the old-school standard of formal (à la russe), with the fourteen courses and sorbet and fish forks and everything. i can not recall that she ever addressed the subject of potatoes, however.

i have seen neither potatoes georgette nor waldorf potatoes on the table at any dinner but i have the feeling that after the novelty of encountering them for the first time i would prefer my comfortable old jacket potato.

The Old Foodie said...

Dear gAstronomer. I have quite clearly not read enough of Miss Manners, or I would not have been serving impolite potatoes for so long. However, I realise now that I am lucky - I have had guests over the years who also have been unaware of the correct potato dress code - either that, or they have been too polite to tell me of my error. You are welcome to join the ranks of plebian guests at home here in Brisbane, and have fully dressed potatoes at dinner, if you ever visit Down Under.