St. Patrick’s Day Plea: The Irish Potato Must Go
As someone who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, I have a certain respect for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m questionably Irish and even more questionably Catholic, but I’m dutifully wearing my green today, and I couldn’t help but be proud when Philly ranked fourth in a recent survey on stateside St. Paddy’s celebrations.
But there comes a time when we must examine even our most beloved traditions and ask ourselves, “Is this really how we want the world to see us? At what cost are we cheapening our ancestors’ heritage and compromising our city’s legacy?”
I’m speaking, of course, about Irish potatoes. (Say what you will about the Erin Express — it’s actually a pretty good time, although in truth, I was always more of a Shamrock Shuttle girl myself.)
An unholy combination of confectioners sugar, coconut and cream cheese rolled around in cinnamon, Irish potatoes trace their roots to the Philadelphia area, where more than 100 years ago, a couple people got dangerously stoned and had the following conversation:
“Hmm…what goes with coconut?”
“You’re right. Amazing.”
“These things are starting to look like cookies. Should we bake them?”
“Nah, let’s just roll them around in our sweaty little palms until the sugar melts.”
“Good idea. Should they go in the fridge?”
“Meh, they’ll be fine on the counter.”
That these blasphemous faux-spuds exist is bad enough. That we spawned them is unacceptable.
It’s mind-boggling, actually. Philadelphia has a long and storied history of nailing it when it comes to dessert. We’re the home of the butter cake, the Krimpet, the funnel cake as you know it. We not only invented Peeps, but in a stroke of genius we turned those little suckers into water ice, then layered in chocolate custard for good measure. Italy may lay claim to cannoli, but I know in my heart of hearts that South Philly whipped up the first cannoli dip party tray.
Most days, we know our way around a potato, as well. As evidenced by Herr’s Chickie’s & Pete’s Famous Crabfries Potato Chips, even our more suspect creations have a way of working out. As evidenced by Loco Pez’s waffle fry nachos, the kingdom of heaven is ours.
But Irish potatoes? Irish potatoes are the glaring blemish on our resume, a half-assed dessert even by our high half-assed standards. Perhaps the one time our usual put-some-cream-cheese-on-it trick failed, they’re a cold, cruel reminder that the universe is indifferent.
That’s not to say I won’t eat an Irish potato today. I’m no heathen. But as I do so, I’ll be dreaming of the day when I can walk into the office kitchen on March 17th without being reminded of one of our greatest failures as a city.
Forgive us, potatoes, for we knew not what we were doing.
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