Could Potatoes Save Your Life?


The news this week has not been good. One, a recent CNBC article says inflation has arrived. I have read a few other articles that claim what we are experiencing is no longer recession, but a full depression.

I know from personal experience that the last two weeks I have seen a few items I use on a regular basis increase in cost $1.00 or more. Bacon is one of them. And I buy my bacon at the largest and most successful discount grocery in America. So I get it at the lowest price around. And last week when I went to buy it the price was up one full dollar from three weeks ago.

I also use one of those heat wrap thingies for a back issue. The cost increased $2.00 virtually over night last week.

My electric bill went up $10 a month this year. My gas bill only $1 a month. Car insurance went up $3 a month. I never know what the cost of gasoline will be, but it hovers near $3 a gallon.

All of this at a time when my Social Security monthly benefit has seen no increase for two full years. There has been no cost of living adjustment (COLA.) My income has been stagnant. I can’t figure out how the feds figure cost of living. It certainly is not buying what I need to buy.

And jobs??? All I can find, since the company I worked for went belly-up a few years ago, is temporary part-time work. A side note; my out-of-work friend I wrote about several weeks ago is in a slightly better situation right now. Her part time job was extended through June of next year. So that is wonderful news!!!!

And I know I am far luckier and blessed than many who have been totally and completely out of work and/or have lost their homes and have families to feed. I have a roof over my head and I still do not have to go to bed hungry.

All of this is to say that times are hard and getting harder. Much  harder. If inflation and/or depression hits and the cost of food goes up we will all need to tighten our belts even further than we already have.

More Thyme Than Dough, as stated in it’s ‘About” page, is “a cooking and recipe blog for people looking for budget friendly recipes during this Great Recession.”

That is why this internet article at  really caught my attention:

Find Out How Potatoes Could Save Your Life.

It is a great article by citizen journalist, Paul Fassa, with a lot of information about potatoes. Much of it I shared with you many months ago in the early days of MTTD in a post on how to grocery shop on a tight budget. [I may need to run that post again very soon if groceries keep going up.] The recipes with that post were two different kinds of baked potatoes. You can read it by clicking here. The info on potatoes is about half way down the page, and the recipes under that

The part of the article from Natural News I want to highlight today is this section quoted below.

Surviving on Spuds

Potatoes were the main staple of indigenous South American highland natives for centuries. The Spanish conquistadors grabbed a few along with tons of gold and silver and took them back to Europe. They discovered that eating potatoes prevented scurvy!

Slowly, various forms of potato meals became popular among peasants in several European nations. But they really took hold among the Irish. British rule prohibited Irish Catholics from entering the professions or owning land. They had to rent small plots from Anglo-Protestant owners and grow potatoes to survive.

That’s a survival clue. Lots of potatoes can be grown in a small area all year round, and it takes only a few to make a meal. Growing your own and neighborhood growing is gradually catching on. You can find out more by Googling “home grown potatoes” and “planting potatoes”. It’s even practical to grow edible potatoes in patio planters and window flower boxes. [Emphasis mine.]

Be sure to also check out the five potato links below the article for more information.

To help you decide if this is what you want to do or not I am including two links on growing potatoes; one for regular gardens and one for container gardening. All I did was a regular google/bing search and linked to the first article listed. You may want to do more research. I know I will.

Over the centuries potatoes have kept many people from going hungry. Maybe this will be the future for many of us right here in America.

Let’s hope and pray it does not come to that though!!!! 

Before I end this post and get to today’s recipe (yes, it is a potato recipe) I also want to share with you some other news from my favorite save money site, Tip Hero:

Cotton Prices to Rise in January – What You Should Buy Now

Bad weather in cotton-producing regions of India and China, and flooding in Pakistan, resulted in poor harvests this season, driving cotton prices up nearly 80% since the summer. So far, most clothing makers haven’t passed that cost increase along to consumers. But in recent weeks, the parent companies of a variety of brands – including retail chain Bon-Ton, Jones New York, Hanes, premium denim producer 7 For All Mankind and outdoor clothing maker North Face – have said they expect to raise their prices by up to 10% in 2011.

You have been forewarned. To read the rest of the article and to get tips on what to buy NOW, click the link above.

Featured Recipe    Hungarian Potato Soup

My mother never shared her potato soup with me. So over the years I tried several. After trying them and playing with and adjusting them I finally came up with this one.

If you like a heavy, thick, creamy potato soup this is not it. Nor is this loaded potato soup. It has no milk. It has no cream. But it is delicious nevertheless. What it does have is sour cream. Pure Hungarian!!!!

I am pretty sure my mother made it with a ham bone. Since it is hard to find ham bones these days I use ham hocks. You can use ham shanks as well. Both of these are inexpensive cuts of meat. The hocks are the pigs ankles, and the shanks the calves.

This is what you will need for about 4 people:

For the broth:

About 1 pound of ham hocks

2 stalks celery

1 medium onion large dice

6-8 peppercorns

2-2½ quarts of water

A great soup starts with great stock. So that is where I will begin.

Place the hocks, or what ever cut of pork you are using,  in a pot and  cover with the water. Bring to a boil.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, peel the onion and give it a rough chop.

Wash and cut the celery in half.

 By now the water should be boiling. Using a spoon, skim off any foam or scum that may form in the water. If you are not sure what scum is the brief discussion here may help you out.

See the white stuff  [Don’t you just love my knowledge and use of proper cooking terminology like, “stuff.?”] forming around the hocks. That is scum. There was not very much in this pot.

Once the water starts to boil add the celery, onion, bay leaves, and the peppercorns to the water.

Let the water come to a boil again. Then lower the heat so that the water simmers; or just barely bubbles.

Simmer the broth for at least 1-2 hours. It will be better if you let the broth simmer for 3-4 hours. The secret: The longer the simmer, the more flavorful the broth.

If you use smoked ham hocks, as I do, the meat is already cooked. So 1-2 hours simmering in the water and they are heated through. But what I try to do is build as much flavor into the broth as possible. And that takes a bit of time. But it will be a tastier soup if you do.

I use no salt here at this time. The ham hocks are salty. I wait till the very end, right before serving. I check the taste. If it needs salt I add it then.

Three to four hours seems like a long time. The nice thing is you can leave the pot on the stove while you go do something else. Just check every so often and continue to remove any scum if it forms.

What the stock looks like after two hours.

Compared to the first picture of the hocks in the water at the beginning of the recipe, can you see how rich this looks? The fat and the veggies have worked their magic and have turned water into an aromatic and tasty stock. But I am still going to let it simmer a while longer yet.

Whenever you are finished simmering your broth is when you move on to the next stage.

This is what you will need to finish the soup:

3-5 medium potatoes

3 tablespoons lard

3 tablespoons flour

½ pint sour cream  (The container is only half full. I am using up left overs.)

NOTE: It will take longer to explain the remaining steps to make the soup than to actually make it. The soup is not that complicated.

Remove the hocks from the water and set aside until cool enough to handle.

While the hocks cool down, peel and cut the potatoes into medium sized chunks. That is how my mother did it. No small evenly cut cubes for her.  Why I don’t know. But that is what she did and so I do it too.

Add the potatoes to the broth and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Do not over cook.

The hocks should be cool enough to handle by now. Cut the meat from the bones, cutting off and discarding the fattiest pieces and any gristle.

There is more meat there than you would think. Nevertheless, it is not a lot. Just enough to add a little protein to the soup. Shanks might give you a bit more meat.

Add the cut up meat back to the soup pot and stir to mix.

Remove the bay leaves and celery. Discard.

In a skillet melt the lard………….

…….add the flour and stirring constantly……

……..cook until it is smooth and a light golden color.

Stir  in a cup of water, then the sour cream.

Stir until smooth.

This is the step where I do not do as well as I would like. You really need to mix the sour cream very, very, very, very, very smooth or you will have little clumps of sour cream in the soup. I have never masterted this step. if you look very carefully at the finished soup several pictures down…..OK …so you have to use a magnifying glass………you will see little pieces of sour cream in the broth. Today was the best I have ever done. But I know the little suckers are there. It does not affect the tatse of the soup.

Slowly pour the mixture into the potato soup, stirring all the while to blend.

NOTE: If you do not want the additional fat (lard) here you can simply add the flour to the sour cream and mix very well and until smooth. Then just add that to the broth and mix well and until soup is smooth.

Heat just to a boiling. Remove from heat. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as you like it.

Ladle into bowls and serve with some rye bread and butter.

Bon Appetit


About 1 pound of ham hocks               $2.82

2 stalks celery                                   $0.20

1 medium onion large dice                 $0.62             

6-8 peppercorns                                $0.04

2-2½ quarts of water

3 medium potatoes                            $2.40                         

3 tablespoons lard                             $0.18

3 tablespoons flour                            $0.10

½ pint sour cream                             $1.35

Total cost = $7.71
Cost per person = $1.93

Quote of the Day

I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I expect the same from them. 

John Wayne

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10 comments to Could Potatoes Save Your Life?

  • I’ve been buying kiwis for years at three for a dollar. All of a sudden they went up to two for a dollar. I checked Safeway and they were 79 cents apiece! Fortunately, bananas are still 19 cents apiece at Trader Joe’s.

    Thanks for sharing the news about your friend. That’s good to hear.

    • Roberta

      I have expereinced the same thing since last summer with lemons. From 19 cents to 33 cents, to some places today 60 cents each. I thought it was weather related – the freezing winter a lot of places had. But some inflation may be in those prices too.

  • I’m glad to hear about your friend! I’ve had a couple of out-of-work friends get lucky in the past few weeks, so I’m feeling a little more optimistic than some of the economic indicators would encourage 🙂

    The soup looks delicious, and very traditional. It’s nice to see traditional ingredients (like ham hocks) get used again. It seems less wasteful somehow. And a lot of people don’t know how good things like ham hocks can be!

    • Roberta

      I agree, Fearless, about the use of traditinal, or old-fashioned, ingredients like ham hocks and shanks and other similar ingredients. You are so right. They are VERY tasty. And it is less wasteful. The original ‘green,’ I guess.

  • Friend with a job!

    Hi All,
    Thanks for all the good wishes after Roberta wrote about me in her blog. I do have an almost full time consulting job that will last until at least June and may go for even longer. I am one of the fortunate ones!
    Your thoughts and prayers were felt and I appreciate them all! Thanks to Roberta for thinking of me! She’s the best!

  • […] story into the potato story, you may remember, a short while back I also did a story titled, Could Potatoes Save Your Life? In that post I shared a news item that said potatoes can easily be grown in a small area such as a […]

  • Christine

    I love ham hocks! This is a real stock! During wars time, my mum said, that they did not have much to eat but luckily they had potatoes.
    Inflation is a global phenomenon. Here pork increased by 25-30% over the past year, and general inflation 6-7%!

    • Roberta

      Thanks for your insightful and r eal-life comment. Potatoes have been an inexpensive and nutrious staple in good and in bad times. And they will continue to be so.

  • […] and easy to grow. Check out this link for detailed info on growing potatoes even in small places: Potatoes. This link also has a delicious Hungarian Potato Soup […]