Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes!

Potatoes carefully protected against the elements (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

By Johna Till Johnson

Vlad loved potatoes. I mean, he loved potatoes. He got a light in his eye and a lilt in his voice just talking about them: “Let’s have potatoes for dinner! Boiled ones! The little ones with the white skins!”

Sometimes I’d have to run all over town to find just the right potatoes. (The little ones with the white skins, of course.) Once the potatoes were procured, the cooking process was equally precise: Boil the potatoes in properly salted water. Don’t cook them too long, or they’ll get mushy. (You want the teeth to pierce the skin with a satisfying crunch, but the interiors should be soft and tender.)

Add plenty of butter to the hot, freshly drained potatoes. And don’t forget the dill, or lacking that, parsley!

But that’s not to say Vlad was a potato snob. Although he had his favorites, he loved them all. Mashed. Baked. Fried. I used to love to watch him at restaurants, when the server would offer a choice of starch: Rice or fries?

“Hmm…” he’d say, thoughtfully, appearing to consider all options. Inside, I was already chuckling, because I knew what would come next: “I’ll have the fries, please!” he’d say, as if it were were the outcome of long deliberation, rather than a foregone conclusion.

Although I knew Vlad loved potatoes, and I knew he was Czech, and that Czechs are Slavs, I didn’t entirely put the pieces together until I was in Croatia this past fall. Croatians are also Slavs—and they love their potatoes, with a love that’s delightfully reminiscent of Vlad’s own.

Even more delightful is the respect with which Croatians treat their potatoes. Walking into Dubrovnik in a torrential rain, I saw a bag of potatoes carefully protected from the elements, wrapped in a plastic bag. No rot would come to these cherished spuds!

And a few days later, in a city square, there was another bag of potatoes—carefully resting on a pallet, safe against any morning dampness.

Hail the humble yet glorious potato!

The potato pallet (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

12 responses to “Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes!

  1. I need to show this post to my wife. Being of (half) Irish origin, she LOVES potatoes. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Please do, Pit! Also, I’ve been exchanging potato recipe ideas with a Czech facebook friend–your wife might be interested.

      Try googling Bramborák, which are essentially Czech latkes. They look like such fun to make (and I LOVE latkes, so…). They apparently go well with beer (hint hint).


  2. Oh, that’s great. I didn’t know that about Vlad….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Hey there! I owe you an email, sorry for long delay but in my defense it covers a lot… :-)

      And yes, he was ridiculously cute about potatoes. Still makes me smile. So when I saw the carefully-cared-for potatoes in Croatia it really struck a chord…


  3. I loved this post Johna :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love marble potatoes baked in olive oil.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great story, Johna, and I like that top photo very much. We’re liking to smash the little guys in a pan with some olive oil after they’ve been boiled – with the skins on – you get a nice crust, enough oil to keep you warm in nasty winter weather, and that lovely potato taste and softness…


    • Johna Till Johnson

      :-) Yes, that top photo just warmed my heart when I saw it on the streets… the little potatoes all tucked into their plastic blanket!

      Your recipe sounds lovely–hope it was good!


  6. My mother felt like that about potatoes. It wasn’t a meal without potatoes. it didn’t matter what else was in the meal. There HAD to be potatoes in some form. Brings back memories :-)

    Liked by 1 person

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