The Misunderstanding of Potatoes

First, let me apologize for my absence over the past few days. I’ve been ill of late, and couldn’t actually get myself worked up about eating food, let alone writing about it. So if any of you were wondering as to my whereabouts, I was home, not talking about food. I generally try to post once a day, but I just couldn’t do it.

There. I hope that’s an appropriate amount of contrition.

Now, as I take one last sick day away from work, I do have a topic or two which I need to discuss before they leave my mind. Let’s get to the first one.

I received an e-mail from a PR firm the other day that actually caught my attention. I know, I know, this in of itself is notable and somewhere in my notes is a pledge to keep metrics on just how valuable a service PR firms can be via e-mail. Now that I have one actual post idea from a PR firm in the course of receiving a PR e-mail or four every day for the past two years should probably tell you all you need to know.

Her e-mail was to let me know that …oh hell, why don’t I let cut and paste do the work for me:

EAGLE, Idaho, February 17, 2009 – Any way you slice it, dice it, mash it or fry it, a new survey by the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) reveals that Americans love their spuds. There’s no doubt, potatoes remain a relished dish on the national table – survey results confirm that potatoes are “America’s favorite vegetable.” When asked to select their favorite vegetable, consumers picked potatoes (26%), corn (19%) and broccoli (17%).

So, how do we savor our spuds? When it comes to cooking up the tuber, Americans keep it simple. Mashed potatoes (28%) and baked potatoes (25%) top the list of preferred preparations, with French fries (20%), home fries/hash browns (10%) and potato chips (5%) following.

At approximately 25 cents per Idaho® potato, each 5.3 oz spud has only 110 calories, contains zero fat and zero cholesterol, 45% daily value of vitamin C, nearly two times as much potassium as a banana, fiber and vitamin B6 – a win for your wallet and your waistline.

Leaving the bias of any poll run by the IPC aside (This just in, the Beet Group can prove beets are awesome!), what struck me is that potatoes are being classified as vegetables. I mean, I know, I know, potatoes come from plants, and in the broadest definition, vegetables are plants. But for years I’ve been working under the assumption that potatoes, for all of their claims of being a vegetable, are in fact starches when it comes dinner planning. That 25% of Americans have the capacity to think of them on the same lines of broccoli strikes as either sad (if true) or suspicious (if the IPC had used flawed polling).

So, good readers, could you do me a favor, and help me understand. Do Americans think potatoes as a vegetable when it comes to dinner planning? When they look at their cupboard thinking “I need a vegetable.” do they ask “Should I have cauliflower, peas, or a potato?” Am I really that out of touch?

Or are the odds that the IPC fudged their polling better than average here? I suspect the latter, as the second data point (we love to cook mashed potatoes) ever so healthily steers us away from the fact that , while yes, I’m sure we love to cook mashed potatoes, we love to eat the way-less healthy french fries even more, a fact notably absent from the PR e-mail.