Humor: That's a lot of potatoes!

Some are even edible, and they come with a great deal of Irish lore and meaning for the author's fragile sense of identity.
Crosscut archive image.

The mainstay of Irish cuisine

Some are even edible, and they come with a great deal of Irish lore and meaning for the author's fragile sense of identity.

The New York Times Book Review recently advised:

Memoirs with recipes have captured the money-making imagination of the publishing industry, whisking together two of the book categories that remain successful. The foodoir was popularized by the likes of Frances Mayes and Ruth Reichl, who wrote eloquently of lazy Italian plumbers and revolutionary West Coast restaurants, punctuating their musings with recipes that brought the flavors of their stories onto the reader'ꀙs plate 'ꀔ that is, if readers wanted to get their hardcover splattered. Bloggers took naturally to the format, weaving their personal lives into the cooking process as laid out onscreen. Book (and movie) deals followed.

I come from a long line of celebrated Irish chefs. I have supplemented notes on my genealogical research with their recipes. This should lead to lucrative book and movie deals.

I start with Patrick 'ꀜRummy'ꀝ Clifford, my great grandfather (1845-1900). Born in County Cork during of the potato famine, childhood malnutrition made Rummy unable to digest anything with alcohol content under than 6 percent. He was a poet and a dreamer who might have become a great novelist had he been literate. His wife Mary, an accomplished chef, invented the famous Irish dish, Fenian Potatoes, a favorite of Irish Republican Brotherhood:

Fenian Potatoes (serves four)

Ingredients: 6 potatoes. Water. Salt.

Instructions: 1. Go underground. 2. If found pretend to be Protestant by wearing Madras and loafers with no socks. 3. Place ingredients in a large kettle. 4. Boil for one hour. 5. Serve.

Next is my great-great grandfather, Michael 'ꀜSouse'ꀝ Clifford (1820-1867). 'ꀜSouse'ꀝ Clifford was a man ahead of his time. A self-taught computer programmer he struggled to find work in a world without computers. A visionary, he often had visions of pink elephants during his marathon drinking bouts. His wife Mary, during the great famine of 1845-47, devised a tasty way to prepare blighted potatoes:

Famine Potatoes (serves 14)

Ingredients: 400 pounds potatoes. Water. Salt.

Instructions: 1. Remove blighted parts of potatoes. (You should be left with one to one and one half cups of edible potatoes.) 2. Hide edible remains from the British overlords who continued to export food from Ireland during the entire famine. 3. Place ingredients in a large kettle. 4. Boil for 45 minutes. 5. Serve family style.

Liam 'ꀜStewed'ꀝ Clifford was my great-great-great grandfather (1791-1845). Stewed'ꀙs lifelong ambition to support himself as a professional lush was dashed when he developed a chronic case of drinkers elbow. Frustrated, he turned to drink. He died during the famine when British denied him food rations on the grounds that he was 'ꀜnot quite our kind.'ꀝ Stewed'ꀙs claim to have invented baseball continues to be widely disputed. His wife Mary, in homage to the rebellions of 1601, 1641, and 1698, created the Irish standard, Rebellion Potatoes Glacée:

Rebellion Potatoes Glacée (serves four)

Ingredients: 6 potatoes. Water. Salt.

Instructions: 1. Confide rebellion plans to an informer. 2. Avoid arrest by wearing a Trinity College sweatshirt. (No Roman Catholic attended Trinity College until after World War II.) 3. Place ingredients in a large kettle. 4. Boil for one hour. 5. Allow potatoes to cool to room temperature, in winter about 25° F. 6. Serve on a plate if you have one.

Andrew 'ꀜTab'ꀝ Clifford was my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (1760-1831). A charming raconteur, 'ꀜTab'ꀝ Clifford could have been Vice President of the United States had he been born in the United States and been nominated and elected. He was nicknamed 'ꀜTab'ꀝ after his favorite saying, 'ꀜPut it on my tab.'ꀝ He died in debtors prison. To satisfy his outstanding debts posthumously, British Magistrates auctioned his 14 children to Arab slavers. To commemorate the failed rebellion of 1798, his wife Mary invented the famous dish Potatoes Wolfe Tone:

Potatoes Wolfe Tone (serves six)

Ingredients: 6 potatoes. Water. Salt (if affordable).

Instructions: 1. Seek assistance from the French. 2. Be disappointed by the French. 3. Hide. 4. Place ingredients in a large kettle. 5. Boil for one hour.

Last, we come to Patrick 'ꀜSouse'ꀝ Clifford, great-great-great-great-great...grandfather (1722-1777), a failed blacksmith who was originally named Patrick Smith. He changed his name to Clifford in the hope of improving his credit rating. He posed as a descendant of the Earl, Clifford of Cumberland, an historical personage who appears in Henry VI Parts II and III. When the British authorities learned that Souse did not own a blue blazer, he was hanged for impersonating an Anglican. His wife Mary, who, like everyone else, could not stand him, celebrated his death by composing the first Irish stew.

Irish stew a la Cromwell

Ingredients: 2 pounds poached venison. 3 pounds potatoes. Water. Salt (if available).

Instructions: 1. When game warden approaches, pretend to be Protestant by shouting, 'ꀜPatrick, where did you put your condoms?'ꀝ 2. Ask game warden for some salt. 3. Place ingredients in a large kettle. 4. Boil for two hours. 5. Serve family style in the kettle.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors