Forget the Papal visit. All I care about is the World Potato Congress

FORGET the Papal visit. All I care about is the Potatal visit. Put the date in your diaries: 2021, the World Potato Congress will be held in Ireland.

Forget the Papal visit. All I care about is the World Potato Congress

To paraphrase England’s 1996 European Championships song: “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, Potato’s coming home.”

Strictly speaking, potatoes are not coming home. They were actually invented out foreign and only brought here by Walter Raleigh on the back of his bicycle. But still they seem intrinsically Irish. They are thin-skinned, sunburn easily and are often found completely mashed or without their jackets. And a lot of us look like a potato.

The congress is still nearly three years away, so it might seem a bit early to prepare but as anyone who has ever boiled a spud will know, you should never take timing for granted.

Much as a Papal visit or Eucharistic Congress is designed to reinvigorate people’s faith in Catholicism, or remind us of the role of the head of the Catholic Church, I see the World Potato Congress as an opportunity for all of us to profess once again our trust in the head of another church — the British Queen (and other varieties).

I feel a bit like I’ve left my roots — or rather my tubers — behind. I eat lots of potatoes but not the way I used to. Now they get thrown into the oven for a predefined period. It’s a theme of our time-poor, multi-task obsessed lives that I can’t devote the care needed to watch them spuds like a hawk. Spending time with them, asking them how they are — namely boiling them.

It’s not an easy relationship. Boiling potatoes is like living with a compulsive liar. You bring them to a boil, they are fine. You test them with a fork. It seems like they will take a good while yet. It’s as if you are saying “are you OK Potatoes, I just need to go and do a one-minute task?” and the potatoes are all “Gwan and do your job, we’ll be AGES yet”

Then you come back and the potatoes are gone to mush shouting “WHERE WERE YOU WHEN WE NEEDED YOU?”

“But you said you would be fine,” you reply, realising the futility of arguing.


This is the kind of behaviour has turned many people away from the potato. Also the ability of potato starch to find its way all around the house onto eyebrows, door handles and remote controls has meant many of us have become lapsed potatolics.

People have been drifting towards pasta. Which is bullshit. You can’t eat pasta with butter and salt. Or not the pasta we get here anyway. Maybe you could with pasta freshly rolled by Mama Trattoria in a mountain-top village from the 1986 Kleenex ad.

You can’t fry leftover pasta for breakfast with sausages and black pudding mixed in with beans (a dish known as filthy beans).

We have moved towards rice. But far be it from me to call the staple food of three billion people shite, but no one steals a lump of rice from the pot just as it’s nearly done and disappears to a corner to eat it snarling like a feral child.

Recently a study suggested potatoes can cause high blood pressure. Do you know what causes high blood pressure? Slander against potatoes. And these studies often have murky origins. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was sponsored by Big Couscous.

Ireland takes over the mantle as the host of the World Potato Congress from Cuzco in Peru. Cuzco as any readers of the Junior Cert history book ‘Focus on the Past 2’, will know was the capital of the Inca Empire. The Incas were the first to cultivate potatoes and look at the Empire they created. And they want to remove history from the Junior Cert?! If we are to make Ireland great again we need to get back to boiled basics.

The World Potato Congress is coming.

Make sure the Phoenix park is cleared for planting.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

logo podcast

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on

IE logo

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd