A Favorite Spatula

Many people living in the spareness of the Rub’ al Khali or Empty Quarter as the interior of the Arabian Peninsula is known consider a diet of dates and either goat, or camel milk the perfect diet. Nutritionists agree that this mixture of protein, and carbohydrates is one of the best diets anyone can eat.

The Irish had a similar idea, with cow’s milk and potatoes the primary food, along with oats added at times. It is also considered a nearly perfect mix of protein, sugar, and starch, but devoid of vegetables, a problem the Arabs solved with dates.

It was only the potato blight, which destroyed the lumper, the preferred potato of Irish peasants that ended this limited, but bountiful single food source.

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There are over a thousand varieties of potatoes, and most weren’t affected by the blight, but the Irish didn’t know this, neither did anyone else in the mid-19th century. In Ireland over a million people starved to death, and another two million immigrated to America as a result.

It’s a gruesome example of a single source diet. Many think rice, wheat or corn could be the next to suffer a devastating blight.

Without worrying about those concerns, I’ve thought of the one food I’d choose if that’s all I could eat, and my answer, with reservations, is the potato.

As long as the methods of serving it aren’t limited the old tuber, growing in the sandy soil in your garden is hard to beat.

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In 1840s Ireland, a plot just 10×10 feet was enough to feed a person for a year with a few gallons of milk thrown it. The potato is one of the most prolific crops per square foot of production land on the planet.

The thought of baked, fried, mashed, or boiled potatoes, plus the extraordinary variety of potato chips on the market today make it a hard choice to beat.

With the addition of milk, you get butter, cheese, sour cream, and all you’d need to survive.

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It’s no coincidence that the astronaut played by Matt Damon in the film “The Martian” survived on potatoes grown on the red planet. Botanists, and ag scientists say it is possible to grow them on a planet devoid of life for billions of years as Mars seems to be. Science fiction becoming science fact on the silver screen.

I didn’t have to go to Mars or witness an Irish famine to know the power of the potato.

As a college kid my parents gave me a hundred pounds in August and another hundred in January to survive on.

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My roommate and I tested the limits of our Betty Crocker Cookbook’s section on potatoes, double bakes being our favorites.

In the process I found a few beloved utensils that have stuck with me through the intervening decades.

Many 20-somethings out on their own for the first time fill their homes with the latest, greatest gadgets you can find at Sharper Image or peruse on Amazon. Air fryers, custom made, single-purpose utensils, meal specific electric gadgets and devices designed for such narrow usage that it makes you wonder why anyone would buy them at all.

Marketing is why, these high-tech space wasters are all the rage when creatively advertised via niche marketing.

There wasn’t much niche marketing for me in my bachelor days, and their still isn’t when I’m on my own for a few days or maybe a few weeks when Sue is away with the grandkids.

It’s said that as you get older, you get a favorite spatula. I can attest that this is true, but it goes much farther than that.

Looking in our utensil drawer you’ll find at least 10 different spatulas, but every time I cook anything, from meatloaf, to hashbrowns or fried rice, I reach for a little, stainless steel beauty with a serrated edge. The wooden handle is just four inches long and the blade is an equal length, but it’s all I ever use. I’ve used it since I was putting out grease fires with flour on the stove in my apartment on Grand Avenue in Laramie over four decades ago, and it still does the job.

The other utensil is an open ended, four sided, galvanized grater. It makes great hashbrowns, slices lettuce, and is a champion at grating cheese for salads or nachos. One of the rivets broke a few years ago, but there are four more still holding tight. If one or more of them were to break, I’ll take it to my shop and use a few pop-rivets to get it back in shape.

Some people spend a lot of time on kitchen cutlery. Cutlery, just a fancy name for knives. Yes, a serrated knife cuts bread better than a standard blade, and a big cleaver style blade chops vegetables more effectively, but my redneck side has led me to use my pocketknife much more often than any fancy specialty knife.

Yes, I wash it occasionally, but I use it to cut strings on hay bales and have done minor surgery on livestock with it between washings.

In my opinion, you only need three knives to get everything accomplished in the kitchen that you can imagine. Cut, peel, and chop, one for each of the basic cutting functions.

I had a bachelor friend a few years ago who hated to wash dishes, and he despised paper plates almost as much. His solution was to frequent garage sales, auctions, and the local Goodwill to buy tableware.

A dinner plate at one of these stores can be purchased sometimes as cheap as a dime. He didn’t care about patterns, matching sets, and chips didn’t bother him either. He ate on the plates for lunch or dinner, sometimes both, then tossed them in the trash. One meal, one plate, no cleanup. Sure, it was a waste, but he never washed dishes, and he did the same thing with glasses, forks, and spoons.

A barbarian? Well, let’s just say he didn’t go out in public very often.

Potatoes, milk, a spatula, grater, and a couple of knives, it was more than Robinson Crusoe had to work with, even when Friday was around.

The message is that simplicity has its own rewards. You don’t always have to buy the latest, greatest, most technologically advanced tools. The simple ones get the job done and are their own reward.

The Native Americans knew this, the mountain men did too. Its never too late to go back to simpler times.

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