Tennessee Mountain Stories

Tater Cakes

NOTE:  You probably got this in your inbox earlier in the week and I apologize - I simply got the date very wrong!


Blogs across the web will abound this week with recipes and suggestions for using Thanksgiving leftovers.  I doubt I’ll ever burden you with one of my recipes, but I did enjoy a leftover dish this week that always reminds me of home and Grandma.

Tater Cakes, also known as Potato Pancakes, Latkes or Botkin Pie are always a treat when I make them and I remember my Grandma Stepp frying them while I stood by the stove and practically ate them out of the skillet.  She always cooked bacon – or side meat – at the same time and now I wonder just why.  I suppose the bacon drippings made for more flavorful Tater Cakes and together it was a quick and easy meal. 

I wondered how widespread is this resourceful use of leftover potatoes so I did a quick internet search  and I also reached out to some friends around the world.  I was rewarded with an abundance of information.  From Germany to Ireland Potato Pancakes are loved.  Latkes are a traditional Jewish food for Hannukah – although my favorite Middle Eastern Jewish resource doesn’t remember them being among their traditional foods. 

I’ve mentioned before how I’m amazed that our mountain traditions can so often be traced way back to the original immigrants to the mountain and here again we see our Scots-Irish heritage reflected.  In Ireland, Boxty or Poundies are larger than I’m used to seeing, looking more like a real pancake. 

Scottish Tattie Scones look a lot more like our Tater Cakes although some are larger and cut into quarters before serving – and their use of “Tattie” for potatoes sure sounds a lot like our “Tater”, doesn’t it? Well their little cakes are soft rather than crispy and the texture seems dependent on making them while your potatoes are still warm.  Come to think of it, as an ancient recipe fried potato pancakes would keep better than leftover mashed potatoes so without access to refrigeration you might be in the habit of cooking them right away.  The scone recipes also have a lot of butter in them and I’m going to try that the next time I make my own Tater Cakes.

Tell me, do you remember eating Tater Cakes?