Some people find it odd how much I love potatoes. When I try to explain it to them, they say, “I know! Carbs! Who doesn’t love ‘em?!”
“No,” I say. “You don’t understand. If I were on a sinking boat, and had a choice between saving a human, or a five-pound bag of Yukon Golds, I’d be eating latkes the next day—alone.” They are uneasy now. “I love potatoes.”
I remember the first time I ate a potato. After having consumed nothing but breast milk and rice cereal, mashed potatoes were my ambrosia. Though the rice cereal would end up all over my clothes and in my hair (a clever trick I played on my mother—it at least looked like I ate it all), my dish of mashed potatoes would be licked clean, without a spot gone to waste. This made Ma-Ma (as I called her in those days) very happy.
In grade school, I was horrified at what the other children ate on their lunch trays, the slop masquerading as my beloved mashed potatoes. I tried to save them from what I was sure was poison (I would shout, “No! Potatoes don’t come from a box! DON’T EAT THEM!” as the lunch monitor dragged my flailing, six-year-old self out of the cafeteria), but after several dozen detentions, I gave up my fight. Let them die—at least I tried.
In middle school, when other boys my age had posters of busty women and rock bands, I took my favorite portrait of a Red Bliss to the photo shop to have it blown up and framed. My younger sister’s friends would come over and laugh at me, but it didn’t faze me. There was no image that could still my heart like that knobby little fistful of starch. It concerned my father, but my mother assured him it was just a phase. “All kids go through something like this,” she’d say. “For me, it was Barbies. For Elroy, it’s potatoes.” By the time I was in high school, I could tell just by the smell when my boiling potatoes were done. Sniff. Done parboiling. Sniff. Perfect for my German potato salad. Sniff sniff. Ready to be mashed. It’s a subtle difference, but you can definitely smell it.
One day, my junior year at college, I spotted the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen across the courtyard. Her hair was russet brown, her beady eyes sparkled in the sunlight, and her figure was the first perfect 10 I had ever seen. I sauntered over to her.
“Hey, beautiful,” I winked. She was taken aback. “Come to my place. I’ll make you dinner. From the looks of you, I think I’d like to get to know you better.” A gentleman isn’t supposed to be so forward, but I couldn’t help myself. I could not let such a beauty just walk out of my life. She timidly nodded, and took the hand I offered her.
At my apartment, I turned on some soft music, turned down the lights, and told the girl—her name was Janice—to wait in the living room while I worked on dinner. I pulled out all the stops. For our appetizer: Spanish-style Fried Potatoes. My favorite salad: niçoise, minus the lettuce, tuna, and eggs. Soup: vichyssoise, but without the leeks (I’ve never liked them, and I didn’t have any on hand). Then, the piece de resistance: Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise. (Dessert: ice cream.)
After the several hours it took me to prepare all this, Janice was visibly restless. I was glad I had prepared such a perfect menu—each course leading to the next, progressing from good, to better, to the very best . . .
“Janice,” I said, looking into those beady eyes, “you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” She blushed.
“No one has ever called me beautiful before,” she smiled, shyly. “It means a lot.”
“I can’t believe that!” I exclaimed. She was so enticing, I could have just eaten her up. “You look absolutely . . . delicious.” My eyebrow flickered involuntarily as I said the last word. Janice’s eyes flitted between my gaze and her vichyssoise.
“Would you consider yourself more of a Kerr's Pink or a Vivaldi?” I asked her.
“Excuse me?” Her face twisted a bit as she tried to make sense of me.
“You are so perfect. Those lumps, the nice full middle . . . I’ve been trying all night to decide out if you’re more of a Kerr’s Pink or a Vivaldi. At first I thought fingerling, but obviously you’re much too round for that. Your skin doesn’t have the luster of a Beauty of Hebron, so maybe you’re more of a Kerr’s Pink than anything else. Yes, that’s it. A Kerr’s Pink!”
“Kerr’s Pink? What are you talking about?” she asked, by this point, very confused.
“Kerr’s Pink: the most beautiful potato!”
“A potato?!” she exclaimed, incredulously.
“Yes! I’ve been waiting so long to find someone like you,” I said, and started to kiss her. Surprisingly, she pushed me away.
“You think I look like a potato. And you want to kiss me?”
“A BEAUTIFUL POTATO!” I was in love.
And that, children, is how I met your mother.