Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Vying for the Lofty Title of Spud Queen

Chile and Peru went to war over minerals 129 years ago. But over the origin of the potato?

Well, the rhetoric is getting pretty heated. According to this article by the N.Y. Times' Simon Romero:
Peruvian agronomists, historians and diplomats are chafing at an assertion by Marigen Hornkohl, Chile’s agriculture minister, who said Monday, “Few people know that 99 percent of the world’s potatoes have some type of genetic link to potatoes from Chile.”

Peru, where the potato is a source of national pride, could not let such a comment pass.

“Obviously the world has known for centuries that the potato is from Peru and that the Peruvian potato saved Europe from hunger,” Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaúnde told reporters here last week. “The entire world knows this.”

And if some parts of the world did not have an inkling of the importance of Peru’s potatoes, Peru is trying to remedy that through events organized here around the International Year of the Potato, decreed by the United Nations to promote the potato’s potential role in easing food shortages in poor countries.

Moved by research showing that the potato produces more calories per pound than increasingly expensive grains, President Alan García is trying to increase potato cultivation by replacing white bread with potato bread in schools.

Chefs in Lima’s top restaurants have developed new dishes using Peru’s colorful potatoes. The Catalan artist Antoni Miralda i Bou arrived here this month to unveil conceptual works revolving around the potato.

But the celebratory mood gave way to ire over the Chilean minister’s remarks, reflecting festering tension here over territorial losses to Chile in a war more than a century ago and more recent soul-searching over Chile’s economic power at a time when much of Peru, despite its own boom, remains mired in poverty.

No comments: