As a boy the only time I remember that we ate rice was with milk and sugar as a dessert. I enjoyed this simple dish, and even thought it exotic. Then rice left my life as an adult except for the occasional visit to a Chinese restaurant.
On the other hand, potatoes were a constant. My mother, good Iowan that she was, supplied mashed, baked or scalloped potatoes with virtually every supper, the big meal of the day. Of course, we always had meat and gravy of some sort.
Regarding mashed potatoes, to produce them from scratch was really hard work. My mother had to peel the potatoes, boil them and then mash them with this strange looking instrument that required lots of force, adding milk and butter.
However, one thing we never, ever, had—- potatoes and rice at the same meal. That would have been unthinkable.
Well, that was the past. Now we flash forward to Peru. My eating habits have changed dramatically. Our big meal of the day is lunch rather than supper. Our mid-day meal always includes either rice or potatoes. Often I can choose both. To be honest, I like rice well enough, but it is the potato that has captured my heart. (Or is it my stomach?)
I am not an expert on potatoes, but living in Peru has opened up completely new vistas regarding this vegetable. Never before did I have any inkling of the abundant varieties that I have become acquainted with here. It is a whole new world, a world that is populated with a dazzling assortment of sizes, shapes and colors. Go to any market here and you will find a big section devoted just to the potato.
But there is one potato which stands out, one which is the king: the yellow potato
I’m sorry, but the large, pulpy, rather bland Idaho Potato that we eat in the United States cannot complete with the magnificent yellow potato. Now I realize why we in the U.S. have to put loads of butter, sour cream and bacon bits on our potatoes to add taste.
That isn’t necessary with the yellow potato. Its’ rich full taste doesn’t need any adornment. Even so, in Peruvian cooking it does receive some tasty additions. For example, I’m thinking of one of the favorites here, Papa a la Huancaina, potatoes with a rich cheese sauce. I always ask taxi drivers for their favorite dish and this is one that is mentioned frequently.
What I love is puree de papa, mashed yellow potatoes, with a small slice of roast pork. Yum!
As I mentioned previously, potatoes are a constant at our table in Peru. Just yesterday we had another delicious potato dish, Aji de Gallina, a white sauce with chicken poured over yellow potatoes.
My wife asked me if I wanted rice with that, and I just smiled and said,