Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hey, I'm Just A Poor, Dumb, City Boy

At least that's the excuse I'm using.

The old saying "he may be crazy but he ain't no fool" doesn't apply to me anymore. And not because I ain't crazy. Let me explain.

My partner in business and I took a lunch to a local eatery. He's more of a city boy than I am. Born in Brooklyn. Moved to Chicago as a teenager. We're at one of those all you can eat spreads where you can visit the tables of food as many times as you want.

They had about five kinds of potatoes there to eat. Which launched the following conversation. Or at least a reasonable facsimile of what my mind remembers of it.

Scene: A buffet restaurant. During a crowded lunch time. Two seriously hungry eaters, referred to here as diner #1 and diner #2, are discussing the selections.

"Diner #1: These potatoes are awesome.
Diner #2: Well, so are these.
Diner #1: What is a potato?
Diner #2: Huh?

Diner #1: I mean, is a potato a fruit or a vegetable?
Diner #2: It's a vegetable...I think. Actually, I'm not sure.
Diner #1: What exactly is a fruit... I mean, what makes something a fruit and not a vegetable?
Diner #2: Well a fruit grows on trees, right?
D1: No, I don't think so. I mean, they can, but what about raspberries, or strawberries? They grow on the ground.
D2: Yeah. So that's not it.
D1: What's not it?
D2: A fruit being something that grows on a tree. It must be something else. But what?
D1: Well, a potato could still be a fruit. I think they come out of the ground.

D2: I think a fruit has something to do with the ovary of the plant or something.
D1: THE OVARY OF A PLANT!!!! Yeah, that's it, it's a reproductive organ!
D2: I'm serious. But I don't know for sure.
D1: Well a potato couldn't be a fruit. Did you ever see a reproductive organ on a potato?
D2: I've never seen anything on a potato. Not even a stem. It's just some lump. I think they pull it out of the ground as a lump that just grows there.
D1: How do they know it's there?
D2: Good question.

D1: Where do they grow?
D2: Idaho I think. And Ireland.

D1: Why though?
D2: Don't know.

D1: It's cold in those places isn't it?
D2: Yeah.

D1: And dark and rainy, right?
D2: Right.
D1: Isn't Idaho out by Oregon and Washington, where it rains all the time?

D2: Yeah.
D1: So how does something grow in the ground without any sun?
D2: Maybe it does have a stem or something. Or leaves.

D1: No way, I have never seen a potato with a stem or leaves. It's just got an ugly skin and some bumps.
D2: Maybe that's how they reproduce.
D1: How?
D2: Well, you've seen how a ripe potato will sprout legs if you leave it in a dark place.

D1: Yeah those things are still alive when they're in the bag.
D2: Until you throw it a hot boiling pot of water or piping hot oven wrapped with aluminum foil
D1: Which kills it, whatever IT is.
D2: But maybe these things just bud off a leg or something to reproduce a new potato.
D1: Like an amoeba, or bacteria?
D2: Yeah.

D1: Like fission, only on a larger level?
D2: Sure.

D1: Get outta here.
D2: Well they sure don't have seeds. You ever see a potato seed?
D1: Well, no.
D2: So, maybe they bud new potatoes off the old ones. They sure don't have seeds, or leaves, or stems.
D1: I guess so. And I don't see them growing in pods like peas. You never see a pod of potatoes.
D2: What the devil IS a potato?
D1: I don't know, but maybe the potatoes have always been here.

D2: Like, there was once a giant potato that budded off all the potatoes that are now in existence all over the world.
D1: Or maybe the potato has always existed, starting as a giant potato, and then it exploded. Like the Big Bang. So now we have tons of little potatoes.
D2: That we're digging up all over the place?
D1: Do you have a better idea?
D2: Actually, no.
D1: Well...there you have it.

D2: No, we don't have it. That's stupid.
D1: As opposed to biting in to a potato and expecting to find seeds?

D2: No. But I know potatoes have NOT always existed.
D1: Maybe it's a premature animal life form. Like a cross between an animal and plant. It does seem to be alive and it sprouts legs after awhile.
D2: Sprouting legs doesn't make something an animal. Come on.
D1: Maybe they form directly from the ground. That would explain why they only grow in certain places. Maybe we don't have the right dirt here for them to form.
D2: I don't think the potato is a fruit or a vegetable. At least I know a fruit and a vegetable grow on a plant. A potato doesn't does it? I never see anyone selling a potato tree or bush.
D1: No, I'm quite certain it doesn't grow on a tree or bush. It grows in the ground. Definitely.
D2: But how?
D1: Let's just say this. We don't know.

D2: Agreed. But when we get back to the office, we're going to look this up on the internet. That will answer all our questions.
D1: No, I got it. It's a fungus.
D2: (Pause) You might have something there.
D1: Sure. It grows in dark, wet places, right?
D2: Right, just like mushrooms--
D1 and D2 together: ANOTHER FUNGUS!

D1: Am I smart or what?
D2: No doubt about it.
D1: Let's look it up when we get back.
D2: Trust me, I will."

Believe it or not we are both highly educated men. With Biology backgrounds (please don't tell my former professors). But this puzzled us. So I went to look up just what the heck a potato was. And what the difference was between a fruit and vegetable.

If you already knew the answers, congratulations. If not, click on the links below.

To read what a potato is and other fine Thanksgiving foods, go here.

And here you'll find the difference between a fruit and a vegetable.



  1. I must admit I am dumbfounded that there is a website addressing what a potato is AND that you, SM, didn't know! Mark one up for us country folks!

  2. I'm just as dumbfounded as you are. And if it weren't for the internet, I still wouldn't know what was going on!