Last spring I planted a 16 square foot patch of dirt with potatoes. Potatoes come with a significant disadvantage: when they are ready to harvest, they’re buried in the ground! And unlike carrots, which mark themselves with a handy frill of greenery, potatoes spread themselves out underground and offer no signal to guide your digging.
On the upside, potatoes (at least here in the temperate Northwest) will happily hang out in the ground until you are ready to use them. And that’s how I came to be digging the last of last year’s potatoes out of the garden in February. In fact, the spring-like weather we’ve had of late forced me to do so, as the potatoes were on the verge of sprouting anew.
So I scrabbled through the dirt with my hands and my spade, trying to find the taters without injuring them. And by the way, it can be difficult to distinguish a potato from a rock until you’ve removed it from the ground, which made me feel a little like Charlie Brown on Halloween. (“I got a yellow potato!” “I got a red one!” “I got a rock.”)
TGeek turned the load of undersized Russets (apparently my little potato patch was insufficiently spacious to grow those giant Russets) I dug up yesterday into a whopping load of hashbrowns this morning. Stoked up on starchy goodness, I went out and found another 10 pounds of Yellow Satins and Red Blisses. Roasted garlic mashed potatoes, anyone?
All the while I was thinking, there’s no corn in this food.
That’s because I’ve been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and if you haven’t read it yet, you must. You must. I guarantee you will never look at your plate the same way again.
The author explains that nearly everything we eat is actually corn. Because the government, for decades, has been subsidizing farmers in a way that encourages, in fact demands, the vast overproduction of commodity grade corn. Mountains of corn. A river of kernels. And so every packaged, processed food we consume is made out of a whole incomprehensible ingredient list of corn products and corn by-products. And the meat we eat comes from animals that were fed mostly corn, even though their natural diets include no such thing, and so eating meat is really eating corn too. (Eating meat is also eating all the drugs they have to give the animals so they don’t get too sick eating corn instead of their natural diets.) Americans eat more corn per capita than any other population, and that includes Mexicans who eat corn tortillas at every meal. And most of the time, we don’t even know we’re eating it.
Because farmers grow way, way too much corn, it is cheap cheap cheap. And that means the people who make food products use it as much as possible. You don’t think Coca Cola switched from sugar to high fructose corn syrup because it tastes better, do you? And because they want you to buy all that cheap, cheap corn, they find ways to sell you ever bigger, ever denser portions of corn-laden processed foods.
There’s much more. The book is enough to make me not want to eat anything I didn’t grow myself, ever again, and I’m only ¼ way through it. Luckily, I have potatoes to last a few days.