PoeTayToe

potato
"This pony ride's over and done."

Yes, Idaho license plates still proclaim Famous Potatoes, and quite properly so, for Idaho remains famous for its potatoes which, I guess, also renders their potatoes famous for being from Idaho. Fame works like this. The most popular category of famous people has always been Famous For Being Famous, with television celebrities topping this species. Fame must be a critical part of potato marketing, for in the East, Maine plays the Famous For Growing Potatoes Card and further West, Grant County in my native Washington state, insists that they raise more potatoes than any other county in the country. Making a fuss seems necessary when dealing in a natively bland commodity. Nobody's license plate proudly proclaims Famous Tomatoes or Noteworthy CabbageS. Only the homely old potato holds this distinction: LPF, License Plate Famous.

In Idaho's specific case, the fame seems well-deserved.
Whenever I pass through the state, I make a point of ferreting out at least one serving of spuds, and I'm usually uniformly delighted with the result. Whether baked, fried, hashed, or creamed, the quality requires no further elucidation because we're talking about potatoes. None have a foxy nose or a squeamish palate or any of the thousands of fine distinctions wine tasters employ. They're spuds. Nobody expects them to be much more than just what they are. What makes these famous potatoes famous, then? They do what any half-decent potato should quite naturally do without being told to or scolded into their role, they fill a meal's background without competing for front and center stage; famous for being a great background bit player which hardly anyone ever remembers after the curtain falls. The Thelma Ritter of the produce aisle.

With all this fame and notoriety surrounding this fruit, and finding myself in Idaho, I bee-lined to a diner as soon as The Muse had wrangled our early check-in. She had an afternoon of business meetings to look forward to. I'd missed breakfast before we'd left Ogden, it was almost noon. A genuine Idaho potato called me to lunch in Boise. The waitress seated me in The Forgotten Booth in the way-back corner of the dining room, a table featuring slink-down seats which forced me to reach up and over the table edge while cleverly disguising me as a forehead, easily overlooked. I ordered the hash browns, anticipating a perfect plate. Baked then shredded, I imagined, then finished to outside crispy on the flattop. I'd asked for a smothering of sausage gravy to properly disguise the object of my desire as a background actor on the plate. After only an eon, the waitress delivered the plate then quite properly disappeared.

The hash browns proved to be cool-ish to the touch and tough-textured. Undercooked. The potato is one of those veg-es which do not need cooking and can be consumed raw with no ill effects, but hash browns should properly elevate a potato above its humble roots as a simple root vegetable. It might be the perennial background bit player, but hash browned, they play their bit part in Hollywood or along The Great White Way. To find a rather grayish mass masquerading beneath my gravy left me wondering if maybe Santa would be indicted later that morning. My bubble was burst. No, I did not hail my server, who had explained that one of my chicken sausages had somehow popped off the plate on its way to my table, so she'd gone back into the kitchen to see if she could rustle up a replacement. And I was in The Forgotten Booth, anyway, a mere forehead peering up and not quite over the tabletop. My toast never came, either. I choked down my disappointment—I was THAT hungry after all those road miles—paid my bill, and slinked out into a world freshly discredited.

I complain about perhaps the slightest of slights, NuthinSpecial, but nonetheless a significant milestone on a route further diverging away from The Promised Land. The day that I cannot any longer rely upon Idaho to deliver that of which they have always been justifiably famous is a day I both never expected to encounter and which I cannot ever forget. I hear that there's also no Easter Bunny. Just shoot me, if you can find me, my forehead barely breaking the plane of a table in a booth along the far back corner of the dining room, too near the restrooms. Hunt me down and shoot me now! This pony ride's over and done.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









blog comments powered by Disqus