“Las Papas” is the story about a single man with a child. The story starts in the kitchen where the man was going to cook a dinner for his son and himself. He was about to try out a new Italian recipe for “Chicken cacciatore”, when he received a disapproving remark regarding the dish from his son. Having heard this he suddenly recalls similar event that had happened when he was fifteen and disapproved his father’s cooking by calling it “too spicy”.
At the same moment peeling and chopping potatoes he realizes that even though he was born and grew up in Peru, the place where a potato-papas originated, he doesn’t know much about the history of this magnificent vegetable which grows underground without seeing a light and yet it tastes so good, and had been adopted by different cultures throughout the world and remains one of the main ingredients of dishes.
In Julio Ortega’s short story “Las Papas”, the father tries to teach his child about history, culture, and family through his cultural food: the potatoes, by cooking them.
The father in the short story tries to teach his son about history through the use of potato. Potatoes had originated in Peru, South America, and were adopted by local peoples of both North and South America before the arrival of the Europeans. Through such discoveries potatoes had been brought to Europe and other parts of the world where they were adopted and became one the main ingredients or dishes.
The main character in the “Las Papas”- the man who wants to cook a dish with potatoes for his son which would tell him about the history and culture of people, their ancestors, who introduced potatoes to the rest of the world. “Many of them have disappeared forever. The ones that was lost had they been less firmly rooted in the soil? Where they more delicate varieties? Maybe they disappeared when control of the cultivated lands…that the loss of even one domesticated plant makes the word a little poorer, as does the history of lost varieties were written it might prove that no one would ever have gone hungry. (Pg 311,Ortega)
The loss of one domesticated plant makes the world a little poorer’ can be compares to how if you lose a work of art or some ancient relic that tells you about your history and culture, that makes the world a little poorer as well because it is losing a bit of its history. Once a variety of potato is gone it is gone forever. The same applies to your history. If you lose your history it is gone, which is why it is important to remain connected to your culture. So maybe that is why the dad cooks the traditional potatoes for his son, because he doesn’t want to lose his history.
History not only in the country, but cooking the potato is also shows it’s history. “Where’s this food come from? ” the child asked, realizing it was a different recipe. “Peru,” he replied. “Not Italy? ” said the child surprised. “I’m cooking another recipe now,” he explained. “Potatoes come from peru. You know that, right? (Pg 312, Ortega) When the father was cooking the potato, the child was curious and think that potatoes come from Italy. The father in this story explain to the child that the potato originally comes from Peru not Italy. This shows the history of where potatoes come from. The entire history of his people was here, he said to himself, surviving in a territory overrun and pillaged several times, growing in marginal spaces, under siege and waiting. ” (Pg 314, Ortega)
The potatoes represent the history of Peru, just how the potato is misshapen and can adapt to many different lands, the people of Peru are living in tough conditions also have to adapt to many different situations to survives. The father in the story using the potatoes as a symbol not only teach his child about the history but also culture. Culture is the characteristic and behaviors that is share by a group of people.
Every country has their own culture but they all have a different culture. In the story Las papas, the father cooks the potatoes for the child and at the end of the story he plant the potatoes to show him their culture and tradition. The potato also reminds him of his mother’s stories, and the different in cultures between America and Peru. “Are potatoes harvested at night in the moonlight? He was surprised how little he knew about something that came from his own country. As he thought about it, he believed harvest wasn’t even the correct term. Gathering? Digging? What do you call this harvest from under the earth? (Pg 313, Ortega) The father is trying to remember how potatoes are harvested, and it surprised him that how little he actually knew about them. It shows that the lost of his old culture when he lives in Peru and he is a bite guilty and astonish that he doesn’t know this simply and base facts about his culture. “Boiled, baked, fried, or stewed: the ways of cooking potatoes were a long story in themselves. He remembered what his mother had told him as a child: at harvest time, the largest potatoes would be roasted for everybody, and, in the fire, they would open up just like flowers.
The potatoes were probably the one of the lost varieties, the kind that turned into flowers in the flames. ” (Pg 313, Ortega)The culture of Peru is reflected through the symbol potato. The father think about the time when he was a child and his mother told him stories about his culture and how different ways the potatoes were cooked in the past. So when the father cooks the potato it reminds him of the culture of peru and all the different ways that people there cooks the potatoes. “The pulp was crisp, almost too white, more like an apple, perhaps. Where did these potatoes come from? Wyoming or Idaho, probably.
The potatoes from his country, on the other hand, were grittier, with a heavy flavor of the land. There were dark ones, almost royal purple like fruit, and delicate yellow ones, like the yolk of an egg. ” (Pg 311, Ortega) Even though the potato reminds him of Peru and his culture, he can still tell the different between potatoes in America and the potatoes in Peru. So maybe the differents of potatoes in two countries represent the different of culture in two different countries. So the American potatoes are much crisper and cleaner while the Peruvian are grittier and taste of the land.
In Las Papas, the main character the father not only teaches the child about history and culture also the father was trying show the child about family. Family is important in every culture and history, and it plays a big role this story “Las Papas” The potatoes that the father cooks remind him not only of his family in Peru but also of the important of building a strong family in his new home. Cooking and planting the potatoes bring him and his son to a closer bond and make him realize that how family were really important. Unfamiliar anxiety, like a question without a subject, grew in him as he understood that he had never properly acknowledged his father’s gesture; he haven’t even understood it. Actually, he had rejected his father’s cooking one time, saying that is was too spicy” (Pg 312, Ortega) When the father was still a child his father always cooked on Sundays using the Chinese recipe for his family. At that time the child thought that it too was spicy and went to wash the taste away. He didn’t understand the meaning of the culture and the recipe that his father had made.
When he washed the sauce off the dish it was like getting the culture of this food away and eating the plain tasteless dish. Also it hurt his father’s feeling. “At first, when he began to care for the child all by himself, he tried to simplify the ordeal of meals by going out to the corner restaurant. But as soon as he found that if he tried to cook something it pass time, and he also amused himself with the child’s curiosity. ” (Pg311, Ortega) In the beginning the father didn’t think that cooking meals was something important to build a strong bond within his family, he just though is a hassle.
But as the story goes on he realize that cooking the potato for the child can create the curiosity that his father was doing and a strong bond between his family. “He left the apartment, went down the stairs and over to the tree on hillock. It was a perfect day, as if the entire history of daytime were before him… with both hand he dug, and the earth open up to him, cold, he placed the potato there, and he covered it up quickly, Feeling slightly embarrassed, he looked around and he went back up the stairs, wiping his hands, almost running.
The boy was standing at the balcony, waiting for him; he had seen it all. “ A tree’s going to grow there! ” said the boy alarmed. “No,” he said smoothly, “Potatoes aren’t trees. If it grows, it will grow under the ground. ” The child didn’t seem to understand everything, but then suddenly he laughed. “Nobody will even know it’s there,” he said excited by such complicity with his father. ” (pg 314,Ortega) When the father went down to plant the potato, he knew that the child is watching him.
He plant that potato because he’s been thinking all day about his life back where he grew up and the potatoes that his parents always used to cook, so once again the potatoes kind of represent his history and his family. Or maybe he buries it because it reminds him of when he was young and connects him to his the meals his father used to cook for him and the stories his mother used to tell him. The boy is so excited by it being underground because it’s like he shares a secret with his father, only the two of them know the potato is there.
In a way this bring the father and the son closer and connects the son a bit more to his father’s culture and history. Through out the whole story in “Las Papas” the author Ortega describe the feeling of what his culture and history was like in South America compared to the culture and history in his own country Peru. The story “Las Papas” is based on a personal incident of Ortega cooking potatoes for his son. Ortega uses this idea to create a story shows the process and the relationship between it.
Cite this Las Papas – Story about a Single Man with a Child
Las Papas – Story about a Single Man with a Child. (2016, Dec 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/las-papas-story-about-a-single-man-with-a-child/