I know what’s troubling you, readers. “Sure,” you’re thinking, “we love beijingkids for its entertaining, informative take on parenting and family life. But does it really do enough to keep us up to date on what’s happening in the world of potatoes?”
Well, fret no more, my friends, because I am thrilled to bring you the news that China is expanding its potato production to 6.66 million hectares, with the goal of making it the fourth food staple after rice, wheat and corn.
Judging by the spuds in my local supermarket, this must be “fourth” in much the same way that Slytherin is the fourth most popular Hogwarts house for Harry Potter readers. In the UK, potatoes dominate the grocery section: whole shelves of them, different varieties for salads, roasting, chipping and mashing, in a dazzling array of colors from red to yellow to brown to, erm, a different shade of brown. Here, I am forced to track them down, my highly trained nose twitching at the merest hint of their tuberous odor, searching aisle after aisle until I find a handful of sad, gray lumps staring up at me with their single eyes, begging to be put out of their misery.
But wait, there is more! Apparently China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of potatoes. I find this hard to believe. A portion of French fries in a Beijing restaurant consists of approximately three fries, arranged in an auspicious pattern and enlivened by the daring addition of a cute little button of ketchup. There are probably more potatoes in a single bag of Brummie chips than are eaten in the whole of Sanlitun on a Friday night.
For anyone unacquainted with British chips, the word does not refer to paper-thin slices of potato fried until they are crisp. We call these “crisps” because, duh. Chips are the Hulk to French fries’ Bruce Banner, a bulging chunk of spud glistening with grease, saturated with salt and malt vinegar and sold steaming hot in enormous portions wrapped in paper. (Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.)
Perhaps the solution to this mystery lies in the small print. “Authorities will ensure that 30 percent of the potatoes cultivated are varieties that are good for the production of food staples.” So they are aspiring to have three in ten potatoes fit for eating. WHAT ARE THEY DOING WITH THE REST OF THEM? Shoe polish? Cutlery? Furniture? Oh. Apparently those are all genuine uses for the humble spud.
Let us leave the last word to John Hegley, self-styled “poetato”:
This potato has the possibility of the most delightful bloom in it
This potato is bloomful of possible delight, innit
And I think, in a very real sense, we can all relate to that.