No one remembers their first potato. And that’s because most people’s first potato was probably mashed up baby food, and babies rarely remember things for long.
That said, most all of us can trace at least one pivotal moment in our lives to potatoes. That’s just science. Be it fry-form or chip-form; baked, boiled or smashed, odds are good that you can look back on your life and think, yes I am where I am because potato.
For my own part, it was potato sticks. Remember those? Not fries, not chips, but sort of the unholy union of both, potato sticks were always the sort of snack I’d eat if given, but never seek out. So I don’t know how I ended up with a large canister of them back in junior high, eating way too many potato sticks when I was supposed to be writing an essay to apply for the Naval Academy.
Really, the eating potato sticks part was only a minor distraction. But the stomach ache part was somewhat more major. Spending the bulk of my afternoon, shall we say, indisposed, my essay wound up more rushed than I’d have hoped, and I was subsequently not offered a place amongst the Naval Academy’s freshman class.
To think, if it weren’t for potatoes, I might have been a naval officer. If it weren’t for potatoes, I would have gone into engineering or scrimshaw or something and probably become a submarine captain.
If it weren’t for potatoes, I would have had an illustrious seafaring career of daring and adventure, instead of sitting here now writing a book. A book about potatoes.
I’ve been thinking about potatoes a lot.
Perhaps too much, if such a thing were possible.
When setting out to write a book about the global domination of potatoes, one could be forgiven for assuming it a work of fiction. But it wasn’t fiction that secured Antoine-Augustin Parmentier’s place in history, it was potatoes. It wasn’t fiction that decided the War of Bavarian Succession, it was potatoes. Nor was it fiction that inspired the invention of television, devastated the Irish, or torpedoed Dan Quayle’s presidential ambitions – it was all potatoes.
Through agriculture, cuisine and popular media, humans have bent potatoes to our will since the dawn of time. Or is it the other way around? Is it possible that, through it all, we are but pawns to the potato’s dark designs?