The Potatoes

I’m 35 years old but I’m constantly taken aback by the horrors of adult life.

Listen to this. A couple of weeks ago I bought a small bag of new potatoes.

Wait. It gets better.

We’re not exactly a meat-and-two-veg sort of household, so it was with a sense of ticklish nostalgia with which I bought them. New potatoes as far as I’m concerned belong in the same abandoned World War II bomb shelter as Oxo cubes and instant coffee.

In the supermarket, I’d shifted the potatoes around in my palm, getting a sense of their weight and shape as best I could through the bag. I did this partly to evoke some potato memories (Ah, Sunday Roasts, the Denim record, the Smith’s Crisps advert, Sir Walter Raleigh coming in from the docks with a mysterious bundle — whoa! too far, come back!) but also because I didn’t want get home and find I’d slipped mindlessly onto autopilot and bought a load of avocados.

Yep, they were spuds alright. Straight off the gravy-flooded plate of Henry VIII or Captain Mainwaring, except not as soil-caked as I remember potatoes being. What machine has been invented in my lifetime with the express purpose of de-soiling a potato? And how? I can’t see the Dragons going in on that. It’s got no zazz.

Today, as I cracked open the kitchen cupboard with plans to feast upon said tuberous delights, what should I find in place of my scrumptious potatoes but something that looked like it hitched a ride to Earth in the core of a meteorite?

I resisted the urge to get Professor Quatermass on the phone and searched for the use-by date. January 31st!

The potatoes had gone to seed. What had been neat little eyes when we’d first met were now sprawling across the countertop like something from The Evil Dead.

How was this possible? I thought potatoes lasted forever.

My frame of reference for this nugget of wisdom comes from playing in my Nan’s pantry as a child. There were always potatoes and carrots, unrefrigerated, in one of those wooden market boxes and this always struck me as fine. It occurs to me only now that the potatoes I encountered there each week may not have been the same potatoes.

But isn’t their longevity why people buy the bloody things? Why else could it be? It can’t possibly be for the flavour or the nutritional value. Can it? Unless curried beyond recognition, eating potatoes is barely a level up from eating acorns.

Anyway, I found the courage to handle the problem. We internationalists eat things with tentacles all the time.

It turns out the gangly, sprouting eyes are easy to slice off. It’s like giving a haircut to someone with a very small head. And then, in true English culinary fashion, you boil the living daylights out them.

They resisted the pot at first but after a little bashing with the butt-end of a crucifix, we had some lovely boiled potatoes for our dinner. Yum Yum.

Anyway, lesson learned. My Nan bought potatoes weekly. Potatoes do not last forever.

All I can say is thank God they hadn’t got as far as the bedroom. Imagine waking up with one of Cthulhu’s less-charismatic relatives clamped to your face, and having to go about the rest of your day trying to act normal.

Potatoes. What’s the point?

I swear, one of those creeping roots had a fingernail on it.

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