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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton


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Sober Life

I was divorced from my first wife because she peeled the Jerseys and from my second because she wouldn't scrape them.

I've always managed to justify my subsequent bachelor status because I felt I was in the right.

If you can't have the world's best potatoes on a plate, so to speak, what else was marriage for?

Since then two things have happened.

The first was that I came over all religious. Spiritually speaking, I thought I had had a good time, knew it all, and yet some people seemed to have something I didn't. You get the drift.

But as someone (it was the office landlord) once remarked - rather boringly I thought at the time - I had been looking at the world through the wrong end of a bottle of Scotch.

We will, I promise, come back to this sober life business.

I stopped drinking and came to learn that life is still meaningful and Starbucks isn't all bad.

And then the second thing: the Jerseys lost the plot without me.

They don't have the same taste.

Yes, they have the magic of being the first new potatoes because it's warmer in the Channel Islands. They are ready for digging up sooner rather than later than the others from Cheshire or somewhere called Pembrokeshire.

Yes, they look lovely. They gleam. Or at least they do when I've prepared them. They shine. It's almost impossible to overcook them and they have a natural affinity with mint popped into the bubbling cauldron just before they are ready.

This readiness, by they way, does not mean pricking them with a fork.

A third wife could easily go down that road.

It means when they are done and without being too mysterious let me say that you either know when that is or you don't. In the same way that you are happily married or you're not.

But they also used to taste special. They had an indefinable something.

And it's gone.

Jersey Royal Potatoes were one of the world's great foods.

I believe that in Malaysia there's a fruit called something like Duran Duran, which smells so disgusting, they are banned on public transport.

I know some people for whom that same ban should apply.
But the difference is that this fruit tastes divine. There are even websites about them and in the interests of Ibiza History Culture readers I am prepared to go there and try them.

The Jerseys, the first Jerseys, at £5 a pound or whatever they can laughingly fool you with, were worth every penny.

Not just the first ones, but all of them whether shaped like Duran Duran's singer's kidneys or not.

I know they originally came from a strange potato that a farmer dug up which was very big and had sixteen "eyes."

He cut the potato into sixteen pieces and planted them.

No doubt he used seaweed for mulching and all that and had the benefit of the climate, which made the soil temperature just that itsy-bitsy bit warmer.


Up came the first (and this time, I really mean the first, Jerseys, which also happened to be kidney, shaped and could be peeled with just a flicker of a thumb.

Left hand or right, I'm not being discriminatory here.

Oh all right I am, and you would have thought (I did, twice) that any young wife could have done it, but they can't now.

Because no matter what they do, the Jerseys won't taste the same.

I've watched gnarled old men and women planting potatoes in Ibiza. They dig them up, from the red soil, and replant every tenth one or thereabouts after cutting them in half. They produce about six crops a year like this and it's amazing.

I've seen them as they plough a field outside Ibiza's San Jose by holding onto the tail of a horse pulling a wooden plank wedged between their feet.

But we're only after one crop of Jerseys and they can't do it any more.

I have heard there is a team of specially-gifted people with rarefied senses of taste who are examining this year's crop of Jerseys from a bunker somewhere in the Cotswolds.

As it happens, I'll be in that neck of the woods next week and I'll attempt to track them down and see what they're up to.

And also as it happens (though not as often as I would like it to happen) I'll be in Jersey in time for the Food Festival there in a fortnight.

I can't wait. I'm sure the third Mrs. Newton is already there, beautifully scraped Jersey Royal in one hand and a beckoning finger on the other.

On the other hand, perhaps this obsession is what keeps me sane and single.

Sinclair Newton