My mom was visiting last night and I had a delightful food déjÃ vu while slicing potatoes. It was a routine task for sure, but one that provoked a dreamlike state and ignited my eagerness to begin our annual visit to the Algarve region of Portugal.
While my hands guided the paring knife delicately through the yellow potatoes, cutting them lengthwise and then in half, I was transported to our vacation kitchen, far across the Atlantic Ocean. You see, yellow potatoes are plentiful in the south of Portugal, pulled fresh from the ground and sold in the town square by traveling farmers. This makes them an ideal ingredient for our vacation cooking. We roast them with rosemary, olive oil and sea salt; carve them into whimsical shapes and then lightly fry them for an afternoon snack; or peel and boil them until tender and serve with a drizzle of butter.
So for a few brief moments, instead of cutting the pallid grocery store potato, my hands sliced an Algarvean one. And as I performed this simple act, my mind transported me to another kitchen — one perched on a cliff above a sleepy fishing village — where I stood side by side with my daughter surrounded by family in a bustling kitchen. We worked together on a family feast, sea breezes wafting through an open window. There was even a stray cat perched on the window ledge hoping to get some leftover scraps.
But no! I was actually in my own kitchen, its only window blocked by a buzzing conditioning unit. There were no light winds or peering cats — just me, my mom, and my hungry six year old begging for dinner.
Ah, the significance that food and moments preparing it together can have to our psyche. It was quite a wakeup being jolted back to my kitchen, a far cry from vacation but I know we’ll soon have many moments like this and I’ll take a bit of food déjÃ vu to lighten the spirits until vacation.
Simple Roasted Potatoes
4 medium to large sized yellow potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil (plus some for greasing)
1 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)
Few sprigs rosemary (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. (A clay baking dish will work best.) Wash and dry the potatoes well. Cut into small cubes and toss with the olive oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Distribute the fresh rosemary on the potatoes. Roast the potatoes for 45 minutes, turning a few times, until crispy.