I wasn't sure if the potatoes were ready but I followed my instinct down to the vegetable garden and surveyed the plants. They were certainly still healthy looking, tall, green, flowers had come and gone and there was no sign of blight. I pulled at the first plant and the green stalks came out easily without resistance. Nothing there but entrails of tiny potatoes still attached to the stalks. I got down on my knees and with my bare hands dug down into the black soil until I found what I was looking for. I pulled it out. The potato was white and lightly covered with the soil and a fair size. I felt excitement at my discovery as a child would digging into a Christmas stocking. I dug in again until I found another one nestling in the dark safety of the earth. Soon I had a whole colander of potatoes and I kept rooting around until I was sure there was nothing left behind, nothing that might rot and eventually destroy the remaining crop.
At this stage my hands and nails were filthy but I did not care. I was feeling satisfaction steal through my bones and I walked proudly back to the house with the food that would grace the dinner plates. The dirt came off easily, no scrubbing was required and I loaded them into the steamer to cook. I have not been able to get a smell from potatoes for years until last night. The smell of sunshine and rain and love wafted through the kitchen and greeted anyone who came in through the back door.
About one hour later the potatoes were ready to eat. We all sat around and like visitors at an art gallery admired the painting in the bowl. Steam rose as we split the white potatoes open to which we added a dash of salt, a smidgen of butter. As we feasted on our crop, my son pleaded with me not to be generous with them. I have been known to travel to neighbours houses in the past with food from the garden. I thought about my ancestors, all the hungry people, who in the 1800's eight million people depended on the potato as their main source of food. In 1846, blight hit the crop and the first starvations started to occur. Approximately 1 Million people died in the Great Irish Famine. Though I ate with pleasure, I said little and counted my blessings.