Observe the potato, harbinger of the quick high. Such a funny-shaped, rather dirty-looking thing, and yet—in so many of its various shapes and incarnations—utterly tempting. Take last Friday, for example, when I drove through In-N-Out with the intention of getting nothing more than a bunless burger to tide me through a long drive. Pausing in front of the menu, I could only stare like a moth to a flame at the bright red, pulsing letters declaring loud and clear: FRENCH FRIES.
Naturally, I caved.
See, I 'm a sucker for potato food. My Thanksgiving turkey-to-mashed-potato ratio is something like 1 to 20. Place a bowl of Kettle chips in front of me (salt and pepper, please), and I will before your eyes transform into a chip-inhaling human vacuum until not a crumb remains. It doesn't matter what form the potato takes—tater tots, curly fries, hash browns, waffle fries, home fries, regular fries—the order of operations is simple. I see, I put in mouth, I chew, I swallow.
Despite this near-instinctive reflex, the sad truth is that I don’t actually love potatoes. There are hundreds of things I’d rather eat. Like burrata. Or cauliflower. Or truffle drizzled on anything. If Congress instituted a ban on potatoes effective immediately, I would not move to another country. I would not even take my indignations to social media. Really. I'm not a huge fast food person. Potatoes are only okay in my book. In fact, they’re kind of like rocks in that they fill you up without contributing much health content. And then you feel all full and heavy afterwards, and all you want to do is curl up somewhere and take a nap so you can pretend it was all a dream and you didn’t just wolf down two whole potatoes dunked in oil and smothered with cheese. (Not great when you need to power through a 200-mile drive.) Honest to god, I’ve never wolfed down In-N-Out fries and not felt a little disgusted with myself afterwards.
And yet, so many things are like a potato. Spuds await around every corner, staring at us with their tuberous, starchy non-eyes. So very tempting, so easy at the moment, but—let's face it—virtually worthless when it comes to long-term value. Reality TV. Tech rumors. Candy Crush Saga with its lulling, sickly-sweet melody. All these things that I can't stop doing, but that aren't things I truly love. Surely, there are better shows to watch than the petty, staged drama of cat-fighting contestants. Clearly, there are more memorable things to read than another article claiming that startup X is “over.” And let’s not even get started on games. There must be more interesting games than a frustrating, quasi-random puzzle game masterfully engineered to part me from my money.
Oh, the things we can't seem to give up, the little addictions we know aren't healthy for us, aren't meaningful or even particularly memorable, but serve as empty calories to hit that quick high. The things in our life that are Like A Potato, sucking up precious resources like time and opportunity cost and stomach real estate.
Death to the spud, I say. Pile all those things Like A Potato together and set them on fire. Not into the delicious deep fryer, but far away, out of sight, out of mind. Life’s too short to waste on things you don’t really love. Think instead of all that you could be doing. Learning a new language. Reading Lean In. Inhaling in the aroma of cauliflower roasting in the oven.
Because cauliflower, unlike a potato, is some pretty good shit.