Within every creamy fork-full of mashed potatoes is a winding history filled with ancient llama relatives, lots of anti-potato sentiment, a proselytizing French prisoner of war—and, of course, more than a little famine. Join Mental Floss video producer Justin Dodd in the debut episode of our new series, Food History, where we dive deep into the origin stories of some of the most iconic and interesting foods on our plates.

First up is mashed potatoes, which weren’t originally eaten mashed or grown in Ireland; instead, the first known potatoes were native to the Andes Mountains, where people covered them in clay to counteract their natural toxicity. It took thousands of years for mashed potatoes to become the celebrated side dish we enjoy today.

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