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“Kitchen” Spice Mix

It may seem ridiculously obvious that during the potato famine, the Irish ate a lot of potatoes. But did you know that’s literally all they ate? Although their meager diet was occasionally supplemented with some herring or an oat cake or two, for the most part, all the Irish ate was potatoes. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 6 to 8 pounds a day. In order to create a little variety in their diet, the thrifty Irish added some “kitchen” to the potatoes, using any flavorful morsel they could find to improve the meal. A little bit of black pepper, some salted fish, foraged shellfish and seaweed, it was all used to “kitchen” the potatoes.

I learned this gem of culinary history from the book 97 Orchard, a thoroughly enjoyable look at the food habits of five different cultures living in the tenements of New York City. Now that I’m back in New York, I’ve started the food book club back up, and 97 Orchard was February’s pick. The book has many fascinating tidbits—so many that I am planning to read it a second time to catch the ones I originally missed—but one of my favorites was the idea of adding some “kitchen” to a dish. Read More