Given that potatoes are from the New World (a.k.a. America), how did potatoes become so prevalent in European cuisine? Here's a little background from Germanfood.about.com:
Potatoes are a large part of German culinary culture, even though they didn't appear on the German table until 1716. Their earliest introduction was a half century earlier in Bavaria, but they were thought to be poisonous, so the peasants wouldn't adopt them until Karl V ordered them to grow and eat potatoes or have their noses cut off.My favorite potato to have around are red potatoes, which are waxy or "fest-kochend" in German, which means they are low in starch and hold together well after cooking:
think German potato salad (my recipe here). And I prefer smaller sizes to the HUGE American monsters. I save them for roasted potatoes (see my recipe here).
The most common way that a German housewife serves her every-day potatoes is:
Pell-kartoffeln (peeled potatoes, cooked in their jackets)
whole potatoes (red or other waxy), small or medium-sized, washed
water (barely covering potatoes)
optional: butter, fresh parsley
Boil potatoes for approximately 20 minutes, or until fork prick test indicates doneness.
Drain the water and return pot onto stove (without lid if ready to serves soon) to let skins dry.
Peel one potato at a time by holding on a fork while removing skin, using a small paring knife to make a cut and then remove all the peel. This is a somewhat time-consuming task right when the cook is busy getting all the other dishes ready for the table. Sooo-- this very boring but necessary task is often delegated to children, husbands or other bystanders with nothing better to do. Digression: Forgive my stab at men ("husbands and other useless bystanders")! Men are great cooks and account for probably 50% of my readers , but growing up in Germany, I never saw a man actually cook anything! In fact, when my dad retired, the only dish he knew how to cook was Pell Kartoffeln, which he likes to eat with Quark. I doubt his repertoire has expanded much -- it is still his favorite dish!
Optional: coat in butter and sprinkle fresh parsley over them.
For tips on growing potatoes, here are a couple of articles to consult come springtime:
The last is a really cool method for growing potatoes vertically: