“When you say ‘potato’ the response is often an autobiography; potatoes provide a way for us to speak about ourselves”
Earle, Rebecca. (2019). Potato.
What can a potato tell us about ourselves? What does it say about the construction of national identity? What role can new narratives around it play in creating expanded social imaginaries? These are some of the questions that lead the harvesting of stories around the potato that forms Cooking Potato Stories.
The potato is a plant native to Latin America that was carried back to Europe by the conquerors. After its introduction, it took a couple of centuries more before this tuber made it from the botanical gardens to the farmers’ fields. The history of the potato is marked by many obstacles to its adaptation and acceptance as a food crop: a long process of transformation, throughout which, many conflicts, beliefs and traditions stood in its way. Ultimately, these difficulties did not prevent the potato from taking root in the world food scene, adapting to each adoptive place and resignification according to the expectations of each different society. Attending this long journey and process of adaptation reveals some ways that plants have served us in manifestations of our power over nature and other people. Here, this will serve to open a conversation about identity, politics, and some of the difficulties that must be overcome when adapting to new contexts and the forms of power that are within.
This work is rooted in the tension between personal and social identity, and the historical and cultural influences that come to bear on its, and their, formation. In light of my own experience of moving between Latin America and Europe, I examine the role of the potato in Galicia and Colombia, respectively, as a means to explore the idea of how a given society comes to imagine itself and its world, as well as others. I reflect on how we build our personal and social imaginaries on the basis of the repertoire of images and ideas that is present in our consciousness, inspiring reactions and determining our values, judgments, opinions and behaviors. The potato packs a universe of symbolic information on identity, domination and social differentiation that I put to use here to reflect on the effects of colonization on our subjectivities, knowledge production and critical thinking.
I explore the role of the potato in the cultural identities of Galicia and Colombia and seek ways to reinterpret and resignify its presence and identity among us. I trial recipes that use this global food source as a way to connect with the collective consciousness through its solid ordinariness, its ability to root us into the ground. Transatlantic recipes that mix the “here” and the “there.” Using ingredients such as heritage, history, the imaginary, tradition, and autobiography, with these recipes I will call into question the ideologies, power and subjectivities behind existing narratives, bringing different aspects of the potato’s history to the fore contributing to build a new social memory about it.