The potato has been generous like few foods. For millennia, this humble, unprepossessing tuber flourished in the inhospitable terrain of the Andes, feeding the civilisations that rose and fell on its volatile slopes. It then crossed the cold Atlantic to stave off hunger in the Old World and here, just like in its South American homeland, it was made to do the work of 10 crops. It has given bulk and bite to meat-deprived pies and curries and added creaminess to stews and soups. It has been mashed to replace bread, brewed to make alcohol and roasted and fried to a crispness that no other food — whether it comes from animal or plant — can hope to match.
Now, it has been used to make something called potato milk. Veg of Lund, a Swedish plant-based company, has developed what it claims is the world’s first plant-based “milk” made from potatoes. The company claims that its potato milk is the most sustainable of all plant-based milk — 56 times more water-efficient than almond milk and twice as efficient in land use as compared to oat milk. In a market that is always on the lookout for the next big plant-based substitute, the idea of “milk” squeezed out of a potato may just catch on. According to a recent trends report published by a UK-based retail chain, potato milk is set to be one of of the hottest new foods in 2022.
In view of the climate crisis, the urge to give up all animal-based foods is laudable. Given that food systems are designed to make us more dependent on animal proteins, it is perhaps even heroic. But, some things are sacred and the potato is one of these. It is meant to be hearty and heavy, shoring up the most meagre meal with its abundance of carbohydrates. What an ignominy to reduce something like this to a mere milk substitute.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on October 27, 2021 under the title ‘Spare the potato’.