True Confections: The Irish Potato Famine in Reverse

I have a few cooking rules. I never cook ethnic food for people of that ethnicity. Another rule is not to try a new recipe for a dinner party or social event.

We were having a dinner at church for the ladies on St. Patrick's Day, celebrating the anniversary of the founding of our women's group. The corned beef and cabbage was being prepared by our resident chef, last name O'Kelly, so we knew that part of the dinner was in good hands. Someone else was bringing Irish Soda Bread. I had volunteered to bring a dessert.

A search for "Irish desserts" on the Internet brought up many interesting options. However, it wasn't an easy task to find a dessert without liquor or the more highbrow-sounding liqueur (don't ask me the difference because I haven't got a clue) for a bunch of Mormon teetotalers. Finally I found the perfect recipe--Irish Potato Candies, a sweet little confection made of cream cheese, shredded coconut and sugar. This was not an official Irish recipe, so it didn't break rule one, but that didn't matter, because short of the O'Kellys, I don't think we have any other people of Irish descent in our congregation here in Hawaii.

The reason for my first rule is obvious. Never cook for people who can detail all the ways in which your offering falls short. This was, however, a new recipe, untried and untested. Still, how hard could it be? Surely even someone domestically challenged could successfully combine three ingredients and shape the mixture into little potato-like entities. And let's not forget the fact that I was born in Idaho.

I mixed the ingredients. Tasting it along the way, I decided to leave out the last cup-and-a-half of sugar. I chilled the mixture, formed it into little potato shapes and then rolled them in cinnamon-sugar. It was amazing! My miniature potatoes looked just like the ones in the picture with the recipe. Usually the difference between my final product and the food in the picture is like the difference between my body and the air-brushed figure of a supermodel on the cover of Vogue. I was so proud!

I sampled one. Even without the missing sugar, it was sweet. In fact, it was a little too sweet. I'm not one to back down from the goodies, but those little "potatoes" were just a tad on the rich side. What could I do? I took them anyway, at least knowing they were visually pleasing. I'm not sure which is worse, the dish that looks awful but tastes delicious or something that looks good sitting on the buffet table but which doesn't look that great sitting half-eaten and politely discarded on the edge of a paper plate.

The women of our congregation can collectively polish of at least one pig's worth of kalua pork, and they made short work of the corned beef and cabbage, but it turns out that few among them could finish even one of my little sweet potatoes. The end result was that I brought back home a large Tupperware container chock full of little cinnamon-covered potato-shaped wads of sugar held together with cream cheese and coconut. As a health-conscious person over the age of 50 (a "Twenior") participating in our family's version of The Biggest Loser, the logical thing would have been to toss them. But I was raised by a "clean your plate" mother, and was fed, along with with the food, the faulty notion that my overeating and not wasting food was somehow beneficial to the starving masses in Botswana. So I stuck them in the freezer. (The potatoes, not the people from Botswana, in case that wasn't clear.)

Over the next few weeks, when I got the urge for something sweet, I pulled one out. It cured the craving for several days. It is like the Irish potato famine in reverse. I don't think we'll ever get rid of them. It has been over a month now and there are still over thirty of them left. I stopped eating them a couple of weeks ago, but my husband says they are great when you need a jolt out of that afternoon slump. And he told our doctor his recent weight is because he is retaining water.

So first, I apologize to the people of all starving nations, but today, after I take a photo for this article, the potatoes are going on the compost pile. If you see some hopped-up birds and frantic felines in the vicinity of our home, I plead the fifth.


  1. Those mini potatoes look adorable! Thanks for the chuckles!

  2. I about had a conniption when you said you left out a cup and a half of sugar, but after reading the rest of the article I will let it slide. Funny stuff, girl.

  3. They do look awesome! But just hearing about them makes my tooth ache. ;)

    You're a brave woman. Sorry it didn't turn out better. Great post, though!

  4. Susan Law CorpanyApril 23, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    This got me thinking about many of my other culinary disasters, like the time I tried to transport a Baked Alaska on a city bus to the office. (It was my boss's birthday, and that was what he had jokingly requested.) A post for another time.

  5. Susan: I've had to transport baked goods on a city bus too. You haven't lived until you've maneuvered three foil-wrapped cake pans through a busy bus terminal and two transfers (I used to live in a city with an hour and ten minute bus ride ONE WAY to work. I also had a big office, so we tended to make a LOT of food for our pot-lucks).

    Did I have a point? I don't think so. Anyway, let us know how the composting goes and how many birds fly into the walls of your house after visiting the heap...


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