Throughout my childhood, my mom was always buying “pot.” By this, of course, I mean potatoes, as she abbreviated them on her grocery list, the same way “cot” denoted cottage cheese.
Understand, my mom was a self-proclaimed “square” who once, after busting my sister for hosting a party during parents weekend at my college, couldn’t understand where all the Jell-O went. “You don’t serve Jell-O at a party!” she famously exclaimed. “You serve chips and dip!” For this reason, the idea of a woman who’d never heard of Jell-O shots shopping for “pot” never ceased to be funny. “Going to meet your dealer?” we’d ask. “Pick us up a fat sack!”
Anyway, thanks to my youthful “pot” consumption, now, as an adult, I find myself nurturing a pretty nasty “pot” habit of my own.
I’ll admit it: I’m a total “pot”-head. I like them whipped, I like them chipped. I like them fried, grilled, boiled, broiled, baked, twice baked and thrice baked (four times is pushing it). I like them gratineed, scalloped, smashed, pancaked, jo-jo’d and totted (or is it “tottified”?). I’ve eaten hash browns for breakfast every day this week, and potato chip nachos for lunch (don’t knock it till you try it). I find “gnocchi” yummy. I tell time with one of those elementary school science fair potato clocks. I sweat melted butter and sour cream.
Of course, potatoes are a gateway starch, and take it from me, I’ve done them all: rice, barley, hominy, couscous, polenta. I’ve spent the last year strung-out on quinoa — that’s some heavy stuff, man (especially with kale, pine nuts and parmesan).
But while I may find temporary solace in the arms of another carbohydrate, I’ll always return to my first love. Indeed, my three favorite foods are French fries, mashed potatoes and a kosher deli item known as a “knish,” which is essentially a mashed potato stuffed inside a crust that tastes like French fries.
And I’m not the only one with a wicked “pot” jones. The average human currently eats 73 pounds of potatoes a year, and that’s a worldwide average, including all the countries that don’t sell Pringles. Doing the math (even with my “pot”-addled brain), it’s entirely conceivable the median American adult packs away his or her own weight in potatoes. Those family-sized cartons of Hungry Jack make it all too easy.
Odd that a vegetable first domesticated in South America some 10,000 years ago would fare so well in modern day Southeast Alaska. But despite the cold, wet growing season here in Juneau, “pot” grows like weeds.
And so about five years ago, I took that inevitable step and started growing my own. For one, I like knowing exactly where my “pot” comes from — in this case, a giant box garden right in my front yard for all to see. But I’m also cutting out the middlemen who profit so mightily on my constant craving to roast some spuds.
Potatoes are members of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes. Perhaps that’s why they taste so good with ketchup. Point is, like all nightshades, potato plants contain toxins, but in their case, isolated to the leaves, flowers and stems. This renders the luscious greenery I admire as it blossoms throughout the summer little use. No, my treasure lies in the ground, buried beneath a foot-and-half of Turf Builder and steer manure, offering no indication of size, number or quality until we dig them up.
And dig them up we did, as a family activity earlier this week. Let me tell you, the only thing more fun than hanging out and pulling a bunch of tubers is hanging out and pulling a bunch of tubers with your kids. It was a total trip. We blasted Grateful Dead and everything.
Honestly, I’d call this year’s “pot” harvest a success, my son and daughter shrieking with delight at every gnarled purple finger and bulbous pink nugget we unearthed. And while the crop yield falls short of self-sufficiency — thank goodness for retail! — we totally scored a few kilos of homegrowns. They’re currently curing on the floor of the garage, along with all the other junk I’ve got “curing” there, you know, like empty gas cans and old rain boots.
In fact, I texted a photo of haul to the grandparents and you know what my mom texted me back?
“Cute kids, nice pot.”
I’ve got to admit, it does look pretty tasty. Man, I can’t wait to sit back and enjoy a big, fat bowl. It’s going to be a regular “pot” party.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.