Wednesday, August 4, 2010




: a usually sweetened bread enriched with eggs that is baked and then sliced and toasted until dry and crisp

ZWIEBACK is German for "twice-baked", and while the word here describes those biscuits toothless babies chew on, the phrase "twice-baked" in America refers usually to potatoes.

My older brother Heath is a fan of the twice-baked potato. My mother would make potatoes this way pretty frequently—in fact, I don't remember her making potatoes any other way. Bake, slice off tops, remove innards, mash with butter, salt, onion powder, and parmesan cheese, replace innards, bake again to a crisp. While most of my immediate family would have a single potato alongside dinner, Heath would somehow manage to devour at least three or four of the taxidermic roots. Even on Thanksgiving Heath's plate would be garnished with a perimeter of potatoes already surrounding a feast. Impressive. He's not a large man, just a healthy appetite I suppose.

During the International Year of the Potato in 2008, potato farmers, enthusiasts, and scholars attempted to spread the joy of these earthy tubers, or oblong outgrowths of a subterranean stem (not to be confused with tubular : having the shape of a tube; excellent [slang]), letting the world know the potato should not be overlooked. Some objectives behind this United Nations-inspired annual focus included sustainability, climate change on ecosystems, agricultural development for rural communities, and of course culinary arts.

Stanislav Menard, the president of the Slovenian Society for Sauteed Potatoes and Onions, has a soft spot for the tuber, which plays a large role in Slovenian culture. When asked about his country's love affair with the potato, Menard responds:

Agriculturally, Slovenia in the 18th century was a poor country, and famines were frequent. After a series of famines in the mid-1700s, Maria Theresa, the archduchess of Austria, decreed that our farmers should start growing potatoes. It was the beginning of a new era. Slovenia is a mountainous country and ideal for potato. Suddenly farmers had a reliable food supply, and feed for farm animals. So what the International Year of the Potato is preaching is absolutely true - the potato did save Slovenia from hunger.

Menard is also quoted as saying "In front of a potato, we are all equal." I suppose he's right.

That same year, Slovenia erected a bronze life-size statue of Maria Theresa dressed as a peasant, offering a potato with her outstretched hand. I can't locate a photo, but it sounds epic.

1 comment:

  1. Omfg those potatoes were amazing! Jane, if you read this: excellent work!