Before I get to the subject of ’taters that many readers seem to have on their minds, I need to correct a glaring error, caused by Mr. Parkinson’s memory lapse, in last week’s paper.
Well over a dozen of you want to know what happened to our diabetes “Tour De Cure” fundraising campaign when it came to making your donations online. The truth of the matter is that Mr. Parkinson plumb forgot to mention how easy and convenient it is to donate on line as opposed to mailing us a check. I can often recall exact details of stuff that happened 60 years ago and be totally clueless about important stuff that happened just last year.
In any event, please go to www.diabetes.org/kentuckytour. Then click “Donate”, then click “Donate to a Participant and type in Ike Adams. Then follow your nose. Once you make the donation it will be credited to my readers and then copied to Team TKO.
Of course you are also most welcome to send us a check, made payable to American Diabetes Association, and mailed to Ike Adams, 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461. We are counting on your continued support of our efforts to contain this horrible disease that has had devastating effects on immediate members of our family and countless others.
In the meantime, I have also had more reader feedback on the recent column about “Arsh ’taters” than anything I’ve written about in several years. It seems that I am far from being alone when it comes to having been an adolescent before figuring out that “Arsh” was a mispronunciation of Irish. We grew up simply knowing the difference between Arsh ’taters and sweet ’taters and were several years into grade school before we encountered “Irish potatoes”.
Inquiring minds, mostly younger than 50, want to know how we went about storing the half ton, or more depending on family size, of potatoes required to feed us from October until another crop commenced coming in by late June the next year.
From early summer until the middle of autumn, we simply dug buckets full of ‘taters out of the garden as they were needed. For many years, for example, either one of my brothers or I were required to dig a 2-1/2-gallon coal bucket full of ’taters out of the garden at least once a week to get us through several meals. By late summer we’d also be scratching around to see if we had any sweet ‘taters large enough to eat.
But sweet ’taters will have to wait for a future column. We’re running out of space here.
Around the first of November, we dug a circular pit near the ‘tater patch about 6 feet in diameter and just over 4 feet deep. The bottom and sides were then lined with a 12 or so-inch-thick layer of dried cornstalks and hay straw.
Called “the ’tater hole”, it was situated on well-drained soil that wouldn’t hold water. Twenty or so bushels of newly harvest potatoes were placed inside it, covered with worn out blankets and feed sacks, then covered with another thick layer of cornstalks and fodder. This was covered with well over a foot of soil and capped with a layer of tarpaper or cheap roofing. The tater hole stayed sealed and undisturbed, that way, for the next 5 months.
In the meantime, another 20 bushels were stored inside our house in a spare room or closets, even under beds or any other place we could keep them from freezing. By the middle of March they were wrinkled, rubbery, and often covered with sprouts, but we still had to eat them until we took the next bunch out of the ‘tater hole.
Taking ’taters out of the hole after nearly 5 months of “seasoning” was better than ham at Thanksgiving! They were crisp, crunchy and juicy; so far better than tasting the ones we’d been used to, that it was like eating an entirely different vegetable. They tasted better raw than the shriveled-up excuses for ‘taters we’d been frying 2 or 3 times every day all winter. New “holed” ’taters were so moist and juicy that I still believe it was a miracle that none of us got our eyes put out when hot lard made them splatter on anybody not paying close attention.
To this day, the only vegetable that ever tasted that good, at least to me, was that first mess of tiny new ’taters, smaller than golf balls, that we groveled out of the garden to cook with that first mess of tender-hull snap peas. By then, the holed ‘taters had also started looking and tasting like rubber.