Hot Potato: History of Thanksgiving’s favorite side spans the globe

Vantage Travel Team November 17, 2017

As Thanksgiving approaches each year, images of succulent turkey, savory stuffing, and decadent pies undoubtedly fill your head. And while these holiday treats are certainly something to dream about, there’s one constant dinner staple you may be forgetting to give thanks for: potatoes. Sure, they may not be a once-a-year treat, but whether they’re mashed, fried, or covered in sauce, they always bring a certain home-style comfort to every meal they accompany.

But there was a time when only South Americans enjoyed potatoes. Spanish conquistadors introduced spuds to Europe in the 1500s after returning from explorations in Peru — but their popularity (and necessity) did not grow until population soared across Europe several centuries later. (Venture to South America with Vantage on our Legendary Machu Picchu & the Galapagos Islands tour.)

Of course, potatoes are much more to the culinary world than just a tasty side dish. Countries from across the world use them as rich bases for many traditional dishes. China and India are the largest potato-producing countries, but today potatoes play a particularly large role in the cuisines of Ireland and Peru — these countries each harvest over 2,000 varieties!

(Click here for tours to Ireland, China, and India.)

So this holiday season, give your loyal potato side dish a well-deserved facelift. Perhaps you’ll do as the Peruvians do, and cover your potatoes with a delicious sauce made of cheese, chili peppers, garlic, and lime juice for a zesty spin (a dish known to locals as Papas a la Huancaina). Maybe you’ll channel your inner Irish and blend potatoes, chicken stock, and green onions into a rich soup perfect for chilly weather. Just remember, whether you dress them up or keep them classic, potatoes will always be a crowd favorite.

Does the idea of Papas a la Huancaina have your stomach rumbling? Try it yourself!


12 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced
6 chile peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1 pound queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese), crumbled
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup evaporated milk


  1. Place potatoes into a large pot of salted water and cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in onions and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add in chile peppers until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove chiles and rinse them with cold water until cool enough to handle; remove and discard skins.
  4. Blend onion, chile peppers, cheese, vegetable oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. Stream evaporated milk into the blended mixture while continuing to blend until a creamy sauce is achieved
  5. Drizzle sauce over the potatoes. Enjoy!

Chef’s tip: For a traditional presentation, arrange the potatoes on lettuce leaves and top with fresh black olives and slices of hard-boiled egg.