Sunday, July 15, 2007

tater tot: a biography

I remember lunch in elementary school as my favorite part of the day. Once again, the lunchlady would hand me some misshapen, previously frozen pizza-spaghetti hybrid (which I always enjoyed) and a side of golden tots in a white paper tray. Crispy, chewy bits of potato in every bite, left my hands delightfully greasy. In middle school, I subsisted on a strict diet of cafeteria tots and a package of generic brand Ms. Fields butter toffee cookies everyday for lunch. (Brain fuel for all that long division!) Sadly, I'm well beyond the age of being served tater tots in a cafeteria line. But never fear, both Ore-Ida and McCain offer tots in the frozen foods aisle. And if you happen to live in Baltimore, go to Ale Mary's where tots are served alongside sandwiches and wraps. We were there last week with Rachel of Coconut and Lime and her husband. Yet again, the tots did not disappoint!

In 1953 the Grigg brothers of Ore-Ida, when posed with the problem of what to do with all the leftover potato pieces from fries, brainstormed up the tater tot. A tot is made from grated potatoes, rice flour or some form of starch as binder, powdered garlic and onion, then shaped into miniature shapes we know and love, then fried. Potatoes are a good soure of vitamin C, but fried baby tots are probably not the best nor most healthful way to get your daily dose.

Try layering tots in a casserole dish for breakfast, or dusting them with cayenne and cumin, or even using them as croutons in a salad. My personal favorite: sandwich tots between 2 slices of buttered white bread for an authentic British chip butty! Seems like the cafeteria tot is actually quite the versatile ingredient!

**picture from BikeNerd