Ode to the Potato Pancake (Happy Chanukah)!

Ode to the Potato Pancake
By: Risa Alyson Cooper 

       Risa and her harvest

Solanum tuberosum, has a rich history you know.
The mighty potato was domesticated 7000 years ago.
Yes, ancestors to the Incas, grew these gems in the Andes up high,
Over 3000 varieties, says Wikepedia and I. 

In the late fifteen hundreds, Spanish ships from New World carried this amazing new food
But alas, in Europe, the potato was greeted with a reception quite rude.
Europeans were skeptical, some say because the potato was not mentioned in the bible
They feared eating it would turn them into lepers, so they did not warmly greet its arrival.

But the Irish, to the potato they opened their arms and hearts widely,
Planting it in abundance, celebrating a vegetable so hearty
And over time the rest of Europe, the potato they planted and praised,
But not so fully as the Irish, who became completely dependent on the potatoes they raised.  

In 1845 a fungus wiped out Ireland’s potato stores,
1 in 8 died of starvation according to Irish lore. 
Ireland’s great potato famine offers proof of monoculture’s folly,
And do humans learn from their mistakes?  No, I say with melancholy.

I digress…

The potato grew in popularity, making its way back across the Atlantic,
In the 1700s it arrived in North America, where settlers became potato fanatics.
In fact, in 1801, when Jefferson was the American president,
He served French fries in the White House, to the surprise of its noble residents. 

Potato farming is now big industry in our country
Today, the potato is Ontario’s largest fresh vegetable crop, but not without controversy.
In 2011, American-financed Highland Companies bought thousands of acres to start a potato farm,
That they didn’t clearly state their intention to first mine for limestone, made locals very alarmed.

The MegaQuarry as it was called, was highly contested,
Ontario farmers and food activitists thought building the second largest mine in North America in their backyard should be protested,
Thanks to high-profile advocacy, the MegaQuarry application has been withdrawn,
But there is still the bigger question, was this all a giant case of “Not in my back lawn”

The only way to remove the threat of mining entirely,
Is to make changes to the lifestyle choices we make, so we are not dependent upon mining products so direly.
Again I digress from my ode to the might tater,
Big picture environmental sustainability we should talk about later.

So, you see my dear friends, the potato has a rich and complex history,
And frying it in oil seems like the most logical way to celebrate the Maccabees unlikely military victory,
And the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days and eight nights,
There are so many layers of meaning to this tasty delight.

So with profound Kavanah, let’s enjoy this most wonderful of treats,
As a celebratory food, the potato latka cannot be beat.