An English In Kentucky


















Thursday May 17th 2018Tim Candler9


    The Irish Lumper is a Potato. It was the more prolific variety of Potato, it grew anywhere and everywhere. In Ireland the Lumper wasn't the only variety of Potato but it was the Potato most people grew as their prime source of sustenance. It was an interesting looking Potato apparently, it was lumpy, not easily peeled, it came in all sorts of shapes and had its reputation survived the Irish Potato Famine there'd be no way mechanized Corporate Agriculture would grow it today. Today's Potato has to lend itself to the machine, particularly to the machines that churn out frozen chips, or frozen French fries for the deep fryers in fast food joints. In the saga, the Potato Blight that caused the famine came in an all consuming dark, glooming, sooty mist that had its source somewhere in the Irish Sea. Some reckoned it was the "sins of the people," others "mortiferous vapors" emanating from volcanoes in the center of the earth. Back then on the east side of the Irish Sea, England had its Trump Country which thought the blight was a heaven sent blessing that would finally transform the troublesome Irish. Prime minister Robert Peel tried to increase the availability of food by attempting to reform protectionist laws that kept out cheap foreign grain, but the English Gentleman Farmers would hear none of it. Meanwhile around a million people died of hunger in Ireland.




     I know about the Lumper because I once earned an hourly rate down by the docks near the late night bars and dance clubs. It wasn't a large establishment, more of a hole in the wall establishment, and raining or not, most of the eating was done by drunk people, eating out of newspaper in the streets outside, between the hours of 10.30 pm and 3.30 am Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My job was to get there around 9.00pm and put the Potatoes into a Potato Peeling Machine. It had an electric engine that made a loud noise in a confined space, the Potatoes whizzed around and around for a couple of watery minutes and when they looked as though they had most of the peel rubbed off them I'd stop the machine, release peeled Potatoes into a bucket full of clean water. Then my job was to press one Potato after another through a device that cut them into the thick chips. The kind of chips that lend themselves to being deep fried in lard. Greasy, hot, limp and soggy, delicious sprinkled with salt and vinegar. My employer might never have known a moment of sobriety, he knew a lot about the art of battering fish and sausages, his hygiene was appalling, he was very picky about the quality of his Potatoes, and he did rather go on about the pace of change, progress, the Lumper and the killing mist. He always paid me at the end of the day in cash.


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