Fortunately this is my personal blog and not a work blog. As a result I get to tell personal stories. And this one is catalyzed by the efforts of Chris Voigt, Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission, who has committed to eat potatoes, and ONLY potatoes, for the next 60 days. He will eat 20 potatoes a day. He is out to prove that potatoes are nutritious. I’m living proof they are. Why?
I’m 46 years old, stand about 5’11’, weigh 171 lbs as of this evening, am in pretty good physical shape for my age (150 mile bike ride in a day a couple of weeks ago, 10 mile trail race in the woods in <1hr 40mins) and, overall, have had a good life to date! All of this fueled by potatoes, twice a day, EVERY DAY for the past 44 years! I can’t remember the details as I was a baby when it all started, but here’s what I have pieced together from the multiple stories I’ve heard about the “power puker” that I was as a child.
I was born with pyloric stenosis and, by all account, could chuck-up 5-6′ across the room. I didn’t keep down any solid food for many months, almost two years I believe. The first solid food I kept down was a french fry or, where I grew up, a “chip” (small town Wales in the UK). My dad had returned from the pub with a bag of chips (wrapped in newspaper of course!) and gave me one. My mother swore I would vomit it and was surprised that I didn’t. And so it started….since I’d kept that one down why not try me on more. Supposedly with the encouragement of the doctor I was put on a potato diet as I could keep them down…mashed spuds, fried spuds, roast spuds…you name it. SPUDS. But nothing else except for some milk and formula. While the operation for pyloric stenosis nowadays is pretty easy in those days (the good old 60s…I was born in 1964…the Beatles, free love and, by all accounts fields full of potatoes) I didn’t get the operation. What I got was potatoes, potato chips, roast potatoes…I’m just lucky I didn’t get hunted down by Colorado Beetles!! I’m sure operations weren’t common at all in small town Wales…more likely a leech in the codpiece.
“Edmund: Never had anything you doctors didn’t try to cure with leeches. A leech on my ear for ear ache, a leech on my bottom for constipation.
Doctor: They’re marvellous, aren’t they?
Edmund: Well, the bottom one wasn’t. I just sat there and squashed it.
Doctor: You know the leech comes to us on the highest authority?
Edmund: Yes. I know that. Dr. Hoffmann of Stuttgart, isn’t it?
Doctor: That’s right, the great Hoffmann.
Edmund: Owner of the largest leech farm of Europe.
Doctor: Yes. Well, I cannot spend all day gossiping. I’m a busy man. As far as this case is concerned I have now had time to think it over and I can strongly recommend a [in chorus] course of leeches.
Edmund: Yes. I ‘ll pop a couple down my codpiece before I go to bed ?”
As I grew up I expanded my horizons to bread, honey, chocolate and every imaginable combination of sweet stuff. BUT I only ate meat on two occasions…both times force fed by my dad. I vomited on him both times. I never ate fish, no vegetables except potatoes, no rice, no pasta, no salads, no eggs (except in bread and cakes)…nothing. I took vitamins…one Haliborange a day…and in those days it was only Vitamin C…not a multivitamin. I took sandwiches to lunch every day until I turned 11. It was honey sandwiches and potato crisps or brown sauce (steak sauce for the Americans) on bread. I got the usual childhood colds but overall was healthy. I was told I wouldn’t grow tall and would never develop intelligence because of my poor diet. I ate chips EVERY lunchtime through secondary school and didn’t have any problems thinking…despite the threats from the doctors! My favorite ad in those days pandered to my tastes….does anyone remember the SMASH advert?
I left for University and fed myself every evening with my “new diet”. I stopped eating chips because of the fear of “FAT”….and moved onto baked potatoes for about 6 months and a daily 3-5 mile run and regimen of lifting weights. But I couldn’t gain muscle…lack of protein and too much cardio I assume.
I left University with a PhD at 24 and left for Ottawa in Canada where I stopped eating chips and, because I was now in North America, moved to a Fry diet, hash browns (never had those before!) and potato pancakes. They CAN cook them differently in different countries. But we’re talking every day…two meals a day…because I rarely ate breakfast and I discovered coffee in a real way when I moved to Canada. Potatoes and bread, dessert, and, because I was trying to gain some muscle, I started to drink milk hoping to gain a little mass. I never stopped eating potato crisps though…because I remained obsessed with the entertainment value of potatoes…they sing you know!
Three years in Canada and then down to the USA to live in Rochester New York. I bought myself a house, took to more obsessive levels of exercise (weight-training, racquetball and running) and, you guessed it, DIDN’T change my diet. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. I met my future wife in Rochester, married and moved south to North Carolina. My wife received two books as wedding gifts….99 ways to cook potatoes and 101 ways to cook potatoes. Unfortunately the Venn Diagram of overlap is pretty significant…there aren’t 200 ways to cook potatoes.
We now have twin boys, eight years old. Our family are all in good shape. We are all triathletes as off this year. We work and play hard. Overall our health is good despite the injuries we get from pushing a little too hard at times. I don’t really eat much different than I did a few years ago. My wife has convinced me to add Green Vibrance to my protein shakes that I take when working out hard. I sleep about 6 hours a night. I snack on chocolate. I drink one relaxing beer a night during the work week at the end of a long hard day. A dietician once told me I should be dead. I have been told I am a ticking time bomb. It may all be true….
I honor what Chris Voigt is trying to prove with his 60 day diet to prove the nutrition value of potatoes. And I know his regimen is stricter than mine. But I think I’m living evidence of the fact that potatoes are nutritious….44 years of eating them two meals a day and the first two years of drinking liquids and vomiting everything else. I’d love to chat with him. I empathize that he has experienced other types of food that he might want to go back to. But for me this is what I know..everyday…so no big deal. I add more fruits now than I ever did…but not daily. I have added bagles and cream cheese as a common meal. But my sons call me the “Potato Man” and tell me how sad they are that I don’t eat other foods.
Chris Voigt…let’s chat.