Dropping a hot potato

According to Mark Twain, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Substitute “blog” for “speech”, and it’s a blessing when a likely topic just falls into one’s lap.

In England every November 5 people celebrate Bonfire Night. It marks the discovery in 1605 of a dastardly plot by Guy Fawkes and his cronies to blow up the House of Commons. The plot involved 13 conspirators, who secreted a hoard of gunpowder in an attempt to do away with King James I and the political elite of England.

The plot failed and the conspirators were executed, except for two who had already been killed when they refused to surrender. Their bodies were, however, exhumed and their heads placed on spikes outside the House of Lords alongside the others. The English were nothing if not inventive when it came to torture and execution.

In January 1606 a Thanksgiving Act was passed to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot and partying became an annual event. Early traditions included ringing church bells, lighting bonfires, and setting off fireworks (presumably in a vivid display of what might have happened if the gunpowder had gone off).

In my childhood we celebrated November 5 with a bonfire into whose ashes we placed potatoes which, an hour or so later, and dripping with butter, became a smoke-blackened, utterly delicious, hot meal.

I was delighted, therefore, to find eminent British chef Nigel Slater extolling the virtues of the baked potato as winter sets in. Slater has a wonderful way with words when it comes to cooking, in this case proposing the technique of a “restrained karate chop” in order to produce a fluffier texture.

Read it here for yourself as long as the link lasts.

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One comment on “Dropping a hot potato

  1. tillyv says:

    I too love smoke-blackened fire-baked potatoes … and Nigel Slater!…

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