Posts Tagged With: Potato

322/365: National Vichyssoise Day*

If you subscribe to the theory that soup, like revenge, is a dish best served cold, then you won’t give today’s food holiday a chilly reception. November 18 is National Vichyssoise Day!

And also National Apple Cider Day. Which would have been delicious, refreshing, in season, and could have been served piping hot to take away the autumn chill. But yesterday, I had to go and open my mouth and declare that since our food challenge is winding down, we wanted to focus on some of the more unique foods that we might not otherwise encounter for a long time again (if ever), and I can’t say I’ve ever had vichyssoise. Hell, I can barely pronounce it! (Vi-shee-swa). So, let’s just dive right in to this soup that is made with pureed potatoes, leeks, and onions, and traditionally served cold!

The overriding question is, why is this soup served cold? Legend has it that King Louis XV of France (1710 –1774) was a big fan of potato soup, but was also paranoid that somebody might try to poison him. Thus, he demanded his servants taste his food before it made its way to him. Inevitably, by the time the potato soup reached the hungry king, it had grown cold. Rather than being irritated by this, the good king decided he happened to prefer his potato soup cold, after all. Nevertheless, vichyssoise fell out of favor for a couple of centuries, until one day in 1917 Ritz-Carlton chef Louis Diat, in an effort to cool off diners during the hot and sultry summer months, recreated a childhood favorite hot leek and potato soup his mother used to make. The family would cool it off by adding milk, and Diat did the same, calling it “creme vichyssoise.” Originally it was only served during the summer months, but demand became so great, it was added to the menu as a regular dish in 1923.

I made vichyssoise using this recipe from, scaling down the serving size since we only wanted to try it as an appetizer. I actually made it last night and let it sit in the fridge, stirring in the cream at the last minute before serving. The result? Tasty…but kind of pointless. I make a hot cream of potato soup that is so much better, especially this time of year. THIS had me craving THAT. Of course, that’s easy for me to say, seeing as how I don’t have anybody trying to poison me.

That I know of, anyway.

P.S. 5 minutes after posting this, I found myself unable to put the spoon down. This really IS pretty good. Once you get used to the fact that it’s cold, the flavor grows on you. I like it!

National Vichyssoise Day

Categories: Soup | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

231/365: National Potato Day/National Hot & Spicy Food Day*

Today presents us with a real dilemma. We have two food holidays to choose from: National Potato Day, or National Hot & Spicy Food Day. No problem for me, but somebody in the house doesn’t like potatoes OR hot and spicy foods.

Hint: it’s not the cat.

Before I continue, I want to update you on a recent challenge. A couple of days ago was National Vanilla Custard Day. My parents had given us some rennet tablets to assist in the preparation. I had never used them before – had never even heard of them, as a matter of fact – and the instructions for preparation were very precise. My first batch was ruined because the milk was too hot, so I cooked up a second helping, and this time the temperature was just right. We put it in the refrigerator overnight to set, and the next morning – before hitting the road – tried the custard. It wasn’t bad at all. But, after fourteen hours in a cooler filled with ice, the consistency had changed to something akin to a watery, lumpy cottage cheese. Neither of us was keen on trying it, but we knew we must adhere to the rules of the challenge, so we actually waited until the stroke of midnight, when it was officially Saturday, and had a spoonful each. Honestly, the flavor wasn’t bad, but the texture was revolting. So, our vanilla custard was a major disappointment – but given the obstacles we faced this weekend, we won’t beat ourselves up too badly.

Moving right along…

Spices were first used to flavor foods around 7000 B.C. when our forefathers discovered mastodon tasted so much better with a dash of red pepper flakes. Some cultures began to build their entire cuisines around spicy foods (Indian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, and others), which isn’t really a bad thing: hot spices rev up the immune system, ignite the libido, and stimulate the brain. Which means, eating them will keep you healthy, horny, and smart as a whip. Plenty of reason there to pass the jalapenos!

I figured it would be easy to celebrate both food holidays today by combining the two. How to do that? With a bag of jalapeno flavored potato chips, of course! They were good. Tara wasn’t as crazy about them, but was a trooper about it (like always) and had a couple despite her distaste for them.

National Hot & Spicy Food Day, National Potato Day

Categories: Too Weird to Categorize, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

194/365: National French Fries Day/National Beans ‘n Franks Day

If you’ve ever played “one potato, two potato” as a kid (or an adult – hey, I’m not judging your arrested development!), today’s holiday just might ap-peel to you. July 13 is National French Fries Day! It’s also National Beans ‘n Franks Day, and we decided to do something rare and double dip. That is, celebrate both food holidays. I think we’ve only ever done this once before all year.

Despite the name, french fries aren’t really French. These deep-fried potatoes – known as “chips” in the U.K. and certain countries Down Under (which is kind of cute, but also confusing, because they call chips “crisps” and it’s all one big slippery slope into anarchy from there) – were actually invented in Belgium. The Spanish introduced potatoes to Europe in the 16th century, and before long the Belgians were frying up thin strips of potatoes in place of the small fish they could no longer fry when the rivers froze over during the winter. A French army officer named Antoine-Augustine Parmentier began championing the lowly potato in his country, where it had previously been viewed as unfit for human consumption in the mistaken belief that potatoes caused diseases. No wonder the French have a reputation for being snooty!  He began hosting dinners for famous guests like Benjamin Franklin,  King Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette, during which potatoes would be served in an effort to prove that they were not only edible, but delicious. It wasn’t until a great famine in 1785 that the French realized hey, maybe we can eat these, after all. A decade later fried potatoes – called frites – were all the rage. When they were introduced to America, fast-food chains named them “French fries” in an homage to their European heritage, not realizing that the Belgians had actually been making them for a good hundred years longer. Which is all fine, I suppose. Belgian fries just doesn’t have the same ring to it, you know?

Beans ‘n franks is a quintessentially American dish in which hot dogs are cut up and cooked in the same sauce used to make baked beans. The two had been served together for decades, until one day somebody – whose name is sadly lost to history – decided it was too much work to take a bite of a hot dog and then scoop up a forkful of beans, so what the heck, let’s just mix ’em together and save all this time and trouble. Presumably, of course. There isn’t a lot of history available on the origin of this particular dish, and my motto is: when in doubt, make stuff up!

I kid, I kid.

To celebrate, first we opened a can of Beanee Weenees in the morning. Nothing says breakfast like beans ‘n franks! Later in the afternoon, we were visiting Capitol Hill in downtown Seattle (we’re in the Emerald City this weekend) and we dropped by Dick’s Drive In for an order of fresh-cut fries. Both were wonderful!

Beans 'n franks.

Beans ‘n franks.

National French Fries Day

Categories: Meat, Too Weird to Categorize, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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