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Posted at 04:23 PM ET, 06/23/2011

In defense of the potato, after the Harvard study


Note the spud-o-phobic caricature. (©Disney - PIXAR)
W. C. Fields said that everything he liked in life was illegal, immoral or fattening.

For me, this was not true until today, when potatoes were added to the blacklist.

After a new study led by Dariush Mozaffarian at the Harvard School of Public Health, there has been a sudden and unprecedented rise in potato-bashing.

Potatoes should not be bashed. If anything, they should be diced, fried and lovingly but lightly salted.

People who consume more potato products, the study revealed, gain more weight than those who eat, say, nuts and yogurt. Potato chips pack on the pounds. Consuming french fries can lead to more than three pounds of weight gain.

Yogurt is good and potatoes are bad? Have you eaten yogurt lately? I have. It is like glue, but without the color and texture. “Do you not like food, but still want to put a substance in your mouth?” Yogurt asks. “This is for you.”

Besides, this might be correlation, not causation. Apparently, people who eat more potato chips and french fries gain weight. Maybe those people also do other things, like eat more non-potato-based products, or dip their potato chips in lard, or use their bicycles incorrectly, as decorative wall fixtures. There are all kinds of factors for which we may not be controlling.

But do we care? No. We leap to bash these harmless spuds.

We are forgetting our roots. Or our tubers. Or maybe both.

If your primary criteria for food are not its loyalty, all-American-ness and general excellence, sure, get on the anti-potato bandwagon. But first, consider the excellence of the spud.

Friends come and go. Even dogs can be disloyal. But potatoes are stalwart. They will stay with you through thick and thin, although they might develop a green growth in one corner. They will power your clocks. They are starchy, yet lovable, a characteristic that society generally prizes. Unlike people, who generally object and cause major scandals if they are locked in cellars for long periods of time, potatoes never complain. They may be taters, but they’re never dictators. Potatoes look right in everything from stews to noodles to alcohols. The only thing I’ve ever seen that was more versatile than a potato was a potato that looked like Meryl Streep.

Celebrities are only spotted some places. Potatoes are spotted everywhere.

When potatoes are baked, they never get behind the wheel and cause problems for officers of the law. When potatoes are hot, they do not break up marriages. No potato has ever sent a lewd image of itself over Twitter by mistake.

But do we notice? Do we care?

No.

Instead, we throw potatoes under the bus. We make a hash of them.

Look at potatoes in our culture.

You say potato — I say potahto? Do you realize how offensive our indifference to the correct pronunciation of its name must be?

Mr. Potato Head is not even a real potato. He is an offensive anti-potato caricature, a brown plastic oblong with exaggerated, stereotypical potato characteristics and components that may present a choking hazard. Actual potatoes do not present choking hazards, and they certainly would not feel at home in those tasteless hats. And yet he is allowed to speak for potatoes on screens and in all kinds of homes.

“Couch potato” is a totally unwarranted insult to potatoes. Have you ever seen a potato on a couch? Rest assured that if you ever see a couch potato, it is not the potato’s fault that it is there. The potato is an inanimate vegetable. It has no interest in watching another episode of “Jersey Shore.”

Maybe we should stop blaming potatoes for our problems.

After all, this country was built on potatoes. Or maybe I was missing the point of “Roots.”

These tubers are loyal and hardworking. They are native to this hemisphere. And we turn on them for yogurt?

Just try not eating them. The Irish did that once, and they were forced to evacuate the country.

By  |  04:23 PM ET, 06/23/2011

Tags:  Potatoes, health

 
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