They're neglecting the potato in Maine restaurants

Wonder why anybody who can't fry potatoes would decide to open a restaurant? And here in Maine, at that, where potatoes are not only a staple nourishment, but an economic asset. A big belt of Maine taxes are paid by potato farmers.

To tell you the truth, I don't know why restaurants refuse to serve potatoes, but one by one we are isolating the offenders, and we don't go back. I like potatoes.

Our cook gets a night out now and then, and I take her to dine, mostly at places we've come to like. But once in a while somebody says, "Oh, have you tried Chez O'Reilly's -- you'd like that."

So once in a while we investigate, and I'm alarmed at the times potatoes -- or the lack of potatoes -- have blackballed an otherwise good chance. Without undue effort, I can name three recent restaurants that seemed each to have a conspiracy afoot.

Well, instead of a sign by the entrance saying "No Potatoes Here," there was a clear effort to keep this from us, and we were seated at our table, permitted to unfold our napkins, allowed to get comfy, and then comes the waiter. "I'd like the steak."

Yessir, how would you like it?"

Fine, so far; not one word about potatoes. I tell him I'll take it sort of medium, and with French fried potatoes. Then it comes.

The other night I had the lamb chops and the girl didn't even apologize. Not so much as "I'm sorry. . . ." With French fried potatoes, I said, and she just said, "No French fries." Then she added, "No potatoes at all."

The chops, when they came, were beautiful, served completely to my liking, and there I was, about to pay for a "complete meal," and all I had -- to lamb chops -- didn't seem to balance off the price on the menu.

Besides, I got this look-aghast from the waitress -- what kind of a nincompoop would ask for potatoes! -- and I was given to understand that nobody had any right to come in off the street and challenge the decisions of management.

True, and I'm the first to say so, the French fried potato is no longer all that good. The factory-trained frozen cousin has driven the proper French fry off the market, and it is rare indeed that any chef today thinks enough of his trade to build some from scratch, right.There's a way to cook potatoes that some restaurant might embrace and make a good penny. We have always called such "camp potatoes," and while they are common in the Maine woods off a campfire, I know of no restaurant that serves them.

Home-fries are of the same stripe, but simpler, and mostly for breakfast. Camp potatoes are best made from cold baked potatoes, but cold boiled potatoes are fine, and in a pinch you can use raw potatoes.

First thing to do when making camp is to bake or boil the potatoes and have them ready. Use a spider, which is a skillet or frying pan, of cast iron, and of good size because camp potatoes go good.

First, take slices of bacon in sufficient amount, depending on the number of people, etc., and cut them into small bits. Let the spider be warm enough to try out the bacon, but not so hot the bacon will crisp. Let the bits of bacon begin to simmer, so bacon fat forms in the pan.

Slice and dice enough onions to suit, and heave them into the bacon fat, leaving the bits of bacon right there.

Immediately everybody and everything within two townships gets the news. Is there anything more wonderful in nature than the wafting of frying onions on the crepuscular zephyrs?

No. Talk about drooling. While the onions are thus making their public announcement, cut your potatoes into slices -- not cubes. Fairly thin. Have them ready to add when the onions are just right -- translucent is the word.

Now, put a cover, a tight cover, on the pan and find something to keep you patient during the osmosis that follows. Remove cover to sniff and stir from time to time -- do not let pan get too hot.

If raw potatoes are used, they take much longer than precooked potatoes. As finale, remove cover and brown to suit.

Try these, as a change from other customs. Then go some evening to a restaurant that won't serve potatoes, and sit there trying to figure things out.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.