Sister Sue is Vindicated + More Lessons From the 2012 Idaho Potato Harvest

InstantTo my big sister Sue, I take it all back. Apologies. Mea culpa. This is a post about my attitude adjustment and your instant potato flakes.

So first, dear reader, is your family like ours? Thanksgiving a huge deal? Dozens and dozens of siblings, spouses, kids, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles? Here, it’s potluck, everyone nabs an assignment. One year not so long ago, oldest sis, Sue’s assignment was mashed potatoes, a VERY important dish, agreed? She showed up with a box of instant (screeching tire sounds here!).

SueSeriously?? WHO cannot peel potatoes for about 40 hungry folks, dice them into chunks, add to cold salty water, bring to a boil, cook ‘til fork tender, drain, add butter and milk and salt and white pepper and maybe some sour cream, mash until smooth or lumpy depending on hunger level and keep them warm and fluffy until the turkey is sliced and gravy made? Uh, well, yeah maybe not so simple.

Thank you, Idaho Potato Commission for inviting me and ten other food bloggers to the 2012 potato harvest in Idaho and full immersion into the spud industry. My first post here tells HOW and WHY a business like potatoes would host us.

mashersThis is an homage to instant / dehydrated / de-hy / flake potatoes. They are indeed real spuds. On our potato tour, we stopped for education and insights at the Idahoan plant, a company that takes bazillions of potatoes and removes the water, then creates an array of products for consumers and foodservice – products that consumers WANT, by the way – under the Idahoan brand (you recognize it now, right?)

Idahoan LogoWhy remove the water?  Supply and demand, simply put.

Idaho grows a lotta potatoes, and we humanoids eat as many as possible in fresh, whole form. But that’s maybe a third of what is grown. And people want lotza spuds, along with convenience and consistency and a value.  And tasty eats. Potatoes in any form are good, cheap.

So, two-thirds of Idaho’s spuds have a future beyond the whole veggie. Restaurants use them in every form. Institutional feeders (schools, hospitals, camps, military, prisons) need potatoes that are consistent, fast, cheap and taste good. Industrial uses — look on labels of canned soups, stews and frozen entrees. And, of course, frozen hash browns, tater tots and fries in the supermarket also come in giant sizes for foodservice.

And then, there are dehydrated potato flakes. They have a place. They are real potatoes, water removed and some stuff put in to keep them on the shelf for a year. Certain types of preservatives and emulsifiers are in there. Well, THIS ONE is just potatoes, butter and sea salt.

Since the Idahoan plant was photo-restrictive due to proprietary processes, I will paint you a verbal picture… imagine conveyor belts that take potatoes thru this: off the truck, into the building, steam wash, roll off the skin, run thru cutters, cook ‘til soft, smash thru this machine, then another, as the water is squeezed out, finally a layer of real potatoes that look like parchment paper. That sheet now goes thru a shaky thing that jolts it into little pieces, smaller and smaller, then the snowflakes run down this chute and drop by precise scoops into boxes. Or pouches. Or cups. Sometimes there is a step that adds flavors for special products, like buttery taste or cheesy taste or bigger chunks for “home-style.”

Sue whacking PattiAt this stage of my life, I’m working on getting over myself. And a good step is to embrace the instant potato in a box. My kitchen pantry already has canned pumpkin, and cans of chicken stock. No more judging. Sue, you are vindicated! Life is short.  And want to know something? These potatoes taste good. I forgot how yummy they were.

Dear readers, I’m not telling you what to think or do. But I believe Larry may like having a box of these at our disposal.  His eyes grew wide (“ooooh, do I get to eat those??”) when I showed him the varieties scored from the tour.

As I watched this video of the Idahoan story, it was GREAT to see our “new friends,” lovely Idahoan people, who gave us our tour.  We weren’t allowed to take photos in the plant, so this is the next best thing to see how it is all done.

glorias scalloped potatoesOh damn, I forgot… while mom used to make scratch scalloped potatoes, she now uses a box– Idahoan, in fact.  I will make amends with her, as well, although I did post her scratch scalloped potato recipe (photo, left) from the Olden Days right here.

My participation in the food blogger “fam” (familiarization) trip was courtesy of the Idaho Potato Commission. They paid all the expenses for my experience, but my opinions are wholly my own.

Idahoan plant with caption

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen Harris October 9, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I had never really tried potato flakes before my college age daughter shoved a spoonful in my mouth, and I must admit they weren’t that bad. Then a couple of months later she won a dorm room recipe contest that Idahoan had sponsored. The $5,000 she won help pay for her sophomore year in college. Needless to say we LOVE Idahoan potatoes now.

2 JulieD October 5, 2012 at 8:06 am

I love the Idahoan potato flakes…I have recipe ideas for them already!! Such a great post, Patti!

3 Wendy W. October 4, 2012 at 5:56 am

The ONLY brand of instant mashed potatoes I buy … and I do use them regularly, but for holiday meals I will always make them from scratch.

4 Worth The Whisk October 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Sara, I think Larry would love a big mess o’ those Cheesy Potatoes, let me know when you publish the recipe!

5 averagebetty October 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I had a boyfriend in high school that I swear only dated me for my Mom’s Cheesy Potatoes — made from Idahoan Potato Flakes, of course.

They tasted just like a loaded baked potato… but a boatload easier for poor Mom than peeling potatoes for 8 (plus any boyfriends!).

Great time in Idaho with you, Patti. It was so wonderful to sit and have a chance to get to know you. I feel like we are always “going” here in LA. xoxo

6 sippitysup October 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Sibling rivalry. It never dies. GREG

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