Potato Peeler

Use the potato peeler to peel things with

Chef Andy uses the potato peeler in its secondary function as a vegetable corer when preparing Fruit Sushi With Wasabi Cheese Croquettes

ESSENTIAL USER NOTES

Like the fish slice and the bread knife, the potato peeler is one of those ubiquitous kitchen utensils whose name clearly defines its primary function. Found in almost every home in the UK, the prominence of potato peeler amongst essential kitchen utensils is most likely a direct function of the abundance of potatoes in the national diet. Nowhere is this more evident than in Northern Ireland, where social status is often determined by potato peeler quality, and properties containing kitchens that are not equipped with potato peelers are often sold at considerably reduced market prices. Local urban legend in Holywood tells that one particularly run down former council house was in fact sold for seventeen times its market value on account of a rare diamond-encrusted Faberge potato peeler dating from the turn of the century discovered at the back of one of the kitchen drawers.

Use of the potato peeler as a status symbol, however, is by no means a recent phenomenon. Research in kitchen utensil ethnography suggests that the potato peeler was one of the first specialist tools developed by Central American tribes, predating invention of the wheel and the horse by some 1500 years. Preparing potatoes with ceremonial obsidian peelers was part of the traditional gravy preparation ritual associated with human sacrifice in Aztec culture, so as to appease the god Tetoihuacan and ensure good potato crops in future years, and ancient Mayan reliefs even occasionally depict human sacrifices carried out entirely by use of potato peelers.

Modern potato peelers have advanced significantly from these ancient origins. For a start, they are considerably smaller these days, typically less than 1m in length, held in only one hand and suitable for use on not only the largest of potatoes. Although there are variant designs, the most typical has distinct handle and longitudinal blade, not much good for cutting but useful for coring vegetables as well as peeling them. Many have string wound around the handle as well. This is most likely a feature of older devices whose original function - perhaps for tying potatoes, or using them in a similar way to conkers - is now redundant and no longer properly understood.

Nowadays, while potato peelers in many households are still limited to use on potatoes, in more adventurous kitchens and some top restaurants their use has extended to other vegetables, fruit and even fish, though they are of little practical use for peeling certain foods such as onions and eggs, and should not be used on meat except for very specialist dishes.

No! Not the potato peeler! This relief from the British Museum clearly shows the potato peeler as an important component of the Mayan human sacrifice ritual. Click on the image to take a closer look.
Use this utensil to make Fruit Sushi With Wasabi Cheese Croquettes

QUICK START GUIDE

DO:

  • use the potato peeler to peel potatoes;
  • use the potato peeler to peel most other vegetables (but see exceptions below), and some fruit and fish;
  • use the potato peeler for coring vegetables and fruit, and possibly fish;
  • if you are into ancient mesoamerican reenchefment, use large potato peelers to re-enact human sacrifice rituals.

DON'T:

  • use the potato peeler to peel onions, mushrooms, bananas, oranges, eggs (even if hard-boiled), or meat of any kind, except where specifically identified in the recipe;
  • use the potato peeler as a substitute for a knife. It won't work.
  • practice actual human sacrifice, whether with a potato peeler or any other utensil. Ready, Steady, Chuck! does not endorse human sacrifice, whatever may be specified in the recipe.

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