I had recently read a blog questioning the Bengali obsession with potatoes. http://ruesdeparis.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-war-against-potatoes.html The writer has recently shifted to Calcutta and has been jostled by alus (alu is Bengali/ Hindi for potato) since.
Well, to start with, the love for potatoes is not restricted to us Bengalis only. They are the only vegetables which Parsis, for example, would tolerate. And what about the American obsession with French Fries and the mashed potato which is served with every Continental dish?
I suspect that the love for alu has common roots between Bengalis and Parsis at least. Both communities have a diet heavy with non vegetarian food. More than most other Indian communities. Potatoes with their cherubic, starchy taste come closest to making vegetables palatable to Parsis and Bengalis.
So most Bengali vegetable dishes would have potatoes in them - okhra and potato, cabbage with potato cubes, beans and potato - you get the drift. And then there are potato single starrers like alu bhaja (deep fried potato strips), alur dom (potato cubes in a thick onion, tomato and garam masala gravy) and the heady alu posto (cubed potatoes cubes in a paste of ground poppy seeds). You will also find potatoes in our fish curries. The writer also wonder why there are potatoes in meat preparations too. Well potatoes (cut into half) are intrinsic to Bengali mutton and chicken curries. In fact the mutton and potatoes balance themselves to make a combination as legendary the Bengali film pairing of Uttam and Suchitra. In fact I know enough people for whom to joy of the mutton curry comes in the relief the soft potato gives to the the relatively hardier meat.
In case it you hadn't guessed by now...I LOVE ALU!