I love potatoes. I blame my Irish background for this…and my parents. Whether it was my mum’s scalloped spuds or my dad’s deep fried chips, every meal included a potato in one way or another.
It wasn’t until university that my potato relationship went downhill. Having no car, I relied on my bicycle in the summer and public transit in the winter. In the summer I would rarely eat potatoes, and when I did I would only buy a few. Transporting them home on a bike in the summer was never a big deal. The winter , however, posed a bigger threat.
One day in mid January I took a streetcar to a grocery store I rarely visited. It was somewhat out of the way, but that day I had errands to run and it was en route. I picked up a few staples and as I was just about to leave, a sale caught my eye. A 10 pound bag of potatoes was so cheap I couldn’t say no. Without hesitation I jumped on that deal. It didn’t immediately occur to me that a 10 pound bag might be problematic for a carless girl in the middle of a Canadian winter.
A ferocious storm had hit the streets of Toronto while I shopped. The temperature had dropped to thirty below and I was engulfed by torrential freezing rain. I carefully stumbled my way to the streetcar stop, potatoes in hand, hoping my ride would appear soon.
After 20 minutes of waiting my gloveless hands were turning blue. I kept waiting, hoping that ‘the red rocket’ as they call it in Toronto, would appear over the horizon. My feet were soaked with ice water and I considered calling a taxi, only to realize my grocery excursion had wiped my bank account clean until my next pay day.
Almost an hour had passed when I saw a crowd of angry dishevelled pedestrians walking down the ice covered sidewalk. As they approached me one man stopped and informed me that the streetcar was stuck on the track. I knew my wait was hopeless. My gloveless hands would have to haul this 10 pound bag even further on my soaked and frozen feet.
I picked up my bag of spuds and joined the angry mob on a treacherous walk through ice and snow to the closest subway station. After 20 minutes of walking, holding a 10 pound bag of potatoes, with a gloveless hand about to freeze off, I developed a strong resentment towards my once loved ‘vegetable’. After an hour that resentment turned into a complete hatred.
By the time the subway station was in sight it felt like a mirage. I knew that once I was there I could enjoy warmth but it felt so far away. With at least another 20 minute walk ahead of me I stopped to warm my frozen hands. At that moment the red rocket flew past me, full of happy warm streetcar riders. I couldn’t take the pain of my frozen hand any longer and with a victorious shot put motion I chucked that sac of potatoes into a trash bin.
After freezing for hours, carrying 10 pounds of wasted money, my love for potatoes had been broken. I didn’t buy them for years as it conjured up memories of anger and frustration.
Now I live in Dallas where the weather is consistently mild and my groceries get transported home via car. I finally had a truce with my once favourite starch, and nothing sounded better than letting them boil for 40 minutes, just as my anger had that day waiting for the streetcar.
8-10 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 yellow onion, diced
3 leeks, sliced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. salted butter
¼ cup fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1 Tsp. dried rosemary
dash red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 cups chicken broth (alternately use vegetable broth for a vegetarian soup)
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all vegetables. Leeks need extra attention when cleaning as they contain a lot of sand. To properly clean a leek remove the roots and the dark green ends, so just the white and light green part remains. Slice the leek length wise, halfway through, so all of it’s layers are visible. Rinse under cold water carefully pulling back layers to remove the sand. Shake off excess water and slice into thin discs.
In a large pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium high heat. Sauté leeks, onions and garlic for roughly 3-5 minutes until tender. Do not brown the leeks as it will give your soup a burnt flavour.
Add potatoes, carrots, and celery. Cook for an additional 5 minutes stirring frequently. Sprinkle with parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes, and rosemary, stir to combine. Pour in chicken broth and season with Worcestershire sauce.
Bring soup to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25-35 minutes. Remove from heat.
Using a blender, puree soup in batches until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.