Quiet Desperation

It’s a meat-and-potatoes issue, and skip the meat


Jennifer has Siri on her cellphone. I have neither. I asked her, “What’s Siri?”

When she told me, I just looked at her.

I said, “Ask Siri how many games Warren Spahn won.”

A woman’s pleasant voice, not that of a robot, said, “Warren Spahn, left-handed pitcher, won 363 games with the Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves, New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants. He was 23-7 at age 42 in 1963. He especially liked eggs Benedict and once ran over a garden hose with a lawn mower.”

I told Jennifer to tell Siri to take the day off.

The world is encamped with technologies that can auto pilot automobiles and airplanes. Drones deliver items on behalf of Amazon, and Amazon itself is something to behold.

I have an entire slide show for an upcoming speaking engagement on a little device about the size of three, side-by-side Chiclets.

Whatever I want, I can have (within some measureable reason, like income) right now, by tapping on some keys, including my seat on a return flight that is scheduled for next July.

Boom. Bap. Pow.

Siri (and Alexa) and drones and all of the rest are wonderful, I guess, but something is lost (who said this?) when something is gained.

Think of something that is simple yet profound, doesn’t come from China, and provides an inordinate amount of value for the money?

Here are some nominations: toothbrushes, light bulbs, and No. 2 pencils.

What I have chosen for discussion? Potatoes.

Wait, don’t go.

Those dusty, dull-brown russets in produce are a humble, starchy, tuberous crop, cheap as dirt, an apple of the earth, and full of nutrients.

I was reminded of the understated allure of potatoes recently when someone mentioned the Original Pantry Cafe, 877 S. Figueroa, in Los Angeles. Have you been there?

It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a day. There is no lock on the door.

It’s cash only, and unless it’s 2 in the morning, there will be a line. It will be worth it.

Every day, they peel and steam potatoes, never boiling them. They steam 20 cases a day. That’s 180 tons a year.

Country potatoes and hash browns for breakfast, and mashed potatoes the rest of the day and night. (You can order breakfast 24 hours a day.)

“Jennifer, call the airline.”

It’s 10 miles from my alma mater, and at midnight, when my mouth started to water, it watered in the direction of 877 S. Figueroa.

At one time or another, everyone has had McDonald’s french fries, and if I’m not careful, I will have to have some right after I conclude this essay. By the way, the AP Stylebook tells me that “french” is the style of cut, not the country, and, therefore, lower case is correct.

Get them while they’re hot. And apparently we do: McDonald’s sells 3 billion pounds of french fries every year.

Hash browns, country potatoes, mashed potatoes, and fries, and I’m just getting started. Chips, scalloped potatoes, roasted potatoes, and maybe the best of all: baked potatoes. Split, fluffed, cheesed and chived.

Take a look at all of the shiny red and green and orange and yellow vegetables in the produce department. And right in the middle of all that color and glamor are potatoes: waiting patiently for their opportunities.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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