The dark and dreary interior of the Potato Eaters is a stark juxtaposition to the colour and the flavor of the sweet potato mash. With Thanksgiving being such an important meal in the North American calendar, I felt it was appropriate to include a painting of a familial supper in this series. The subjects of the painting are peasants and although their entire meal consists of a platter of potatoes, there is no unhappiness apparent on their faces. This is Thanksgiving – being thankful for what one has and celebrating the food on the table. I could not think of a better way to celebrate the simple potato than to spike it with a bit of my beloved chipotle and albeit the food visually contrasts the art, the message is still there.

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, 1885
oil on canvas, 82 x 114 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

The Potato Eaters was one of Van Gogh’s first major paintings in the beginning of his career. The peasants are coarse and the colours are muted to produce what he considered a natural work of art although the facial features are exaggerated creating instead a grotesque caricature. In a letter to Theo his brother, Van Gogh writes “I wanted to convey the idea that the people eating potatoes by the light of an oil lamp used the same hands with which they take food from the plate to work the land, that they have toiled with their hands–that they have earned their food by honest means.” Van Gogh submitted The Potato Eaters to the Salon in Paris where it was rejected. It was his first ambitious work and is now considered his first masterpiece which was the artist’s intention during it’s conception and creation.

{Chipotle Sweet Potato Mash with Fresh Lime}

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1 cm pieces
1 TB olive oil
2 TB butter
1/3 c sour cream
2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
lime slices & sour cream to serve

Place the cubed sweet potato on a roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with your hands before sliding into a 180C oven for about 40 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

Once roasted, puree the potatoes with a blender and add the butter, sour cream, and salt. Mix into well combined. Stir in the chopped chipotle and serve with a glob of sour cream and a squeeze of fresh lime.

This is the third recipe in a four part series for a smoky & spicy Thanksgiving.