Save the Spud: Negative Campaigners Plot Against Potato

by Sarah Henry on April 17, 2011 · 57 comments

in food flotsam & jetsam,vegetables

I recently rediscovered the humble spud. Last week my friend Felicity boiled up some small, freshly harvested Yukon Golds, we slathered them in butter, ground pepper, and a dollop of green garlic pesto, and I was smitten all over again.

Today I feel the need to come to this vegetable’s defense.

A blogging buddy, Charmian Christie of Christie’s Corner, forwarded an inane press release designed to encourage bloggers to dis the potato in favor of a food-like product in a box made mostly from refined flour, high fructose corn syrup, and salt. When I read this missive I started to boil like those wholesome, nutrient-packed baby tubers.

This is one misguided marketing campaign, signed off by the blogger outreach manager (who knew such positions existed?) and an example of so much that is wrong with food culture in this country.

In comparison, a couple of weeks ago I attended a talk by Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio, owner of several seafood restaurants including La Mar in San Francisco (another U.S. location is opening in New York soon). He waxed rhapsodic about the range and diversity of potatoes grown in his homeland (there are thousands of varieties) and explained that at his restaurant in Lima he serves unadorned, boiled potatoes as an appetizer. He also invites the potato farmer to talk with diners about his harvest, which is highly valued in Peru.

Back to the matter at hand: I don’t want to give these foolish flacks (also known as P.R. people), their company, or their product an ounce of extra publicity, so they will remain nameless in this post. If you want specific details and a peek at the press release in all its misguided glory, mosey on over to Liz Snyder’s blog I Eat Real after you’re finished here.

I will say the corporate food conglomerate behind this is a major player who’s name rhymes with “daft” and “graft.” The product: Never heard of it, since I don’t, as a rule, buy mass produced, highly processed, edible food-like substances. Let’s just say the marketing gurus were pushing this glop as an exciting alternative to the “boring” (their branding) potato.

Didn’t these marketing mavens learn from their parents that it’s rude to promote yourself by criticizing something else? How uncivilized and uncreative, this un-potato campaign, as these hired hands dubbed it.

It gets worse, the release goes on to instruct bloggers on exactly how to shill for the company at the spud’s expense — and even offers a whopping $100 gift certificate in a contest for those who do it with style. Sadly, there must be a market among a segment of the blogging community for this kind of hack work or the corporations wouldn’t bother.

The release maintains that all that’s needed is a sense of humor (they cite the satirical mag The Onion as an example) but there’s nothing ironic about what they’re asking of cyberscribes.

These kinds of press releases don’t typically clog up my email inbox. When your blog is called Lettuce Eat Kale it’s probably safe to assume that I’m pretty pro produce.

Or maybe it’s because I don’t think there’s anything funny about encouraging people to eat crap by bad mouthing a natural crop. That’s how I see it. What say you?

This is not sponsored content. This writer did not receive compensation from The Potato Association of America, United States Potato Board or Mr. Potato Head for penning this post.

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Charmian April 18, 2011 at 4:13 am

Thanks for coming to the defence of the lowly, boring old potato. Fingerlings everywhere rejoice.

Love your shots. And I am now aching to grow purple and red potatoes this summer! Alas, I don’t have room in my garden for the hundreds of potato varieties, but there is room for one or two. And there will NEVER be cupboard space for the fake food that prompted this post.
Charmian´s last [type] ..5 Things I Never Thought I’d Have in My Pantry


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 7:11 am

And thank you, Charmian, for bringing this to my attention in the first place. Enjoy your spud harvest this summer.


Jim DeLuca April 18, 2011 at 6:05 am

Nice post. Maybe in addition to promoting the great varieties of potatoes and ways to eat them, we should create another blogger outreach to find the best real food stovetop stuffing that uses whole grain bread, fresh cornbread, gluten free breads, fresh onions, fresh herbs…maybe even some potatoes!


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 7:12 am

Nice to see you here, Jim. As for an alternative campaign: Have at it. I’d like to see peeps recommend a favorite potato recipe. Anyone want to weigh in on that front?


Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple April 18, 2011 at 7:02 am

I must be a bad mom. My kid loves potatoes. I don’t think he’s ever had stove top.

Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple´s last [type] ..Falafel and sauteed chard


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 7:16 am

Hi Marcia, Thanks for chiming in. My kid (who is almost a teen) has only just come around to the wonders of the spud. So we’re having a little love fest with this veg right now: Baked russets, stuffed with grated white cheddar and spring onions. Sauteed, sliced fingerlings with garlic and olive oil. Wasabi-laced mashed creamers. You get the idea. How do you like to cook potatoes?


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart April 18, 2011 at 7:23 am

I love potatoes … real potatoes, and I don’t care who knows it. This PR/blogger outreach stunt amuses me. I get them as well in my niche, and I think …. seriously, do you even KNOW my blog? Sometimes, I simply delete. Other times, I send back not-so-nice notes.


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 7:37 am

I can’t imagine you even writing a not-so-nice note, let alone sending it, Roxanne.

I get my fair share of bad press releases and usually just delete too, but this one really got under my skin, hence the post.


Lois April 18, 2011 at 7:51 am

Thank you for all this sanity! My husband is Russian, so he loves boiled potatoes. We boil them and eat them with sea salt and sometimes a little olive oil. I get potatoes at the farmers market – I am partial to the Carolas and unsprayed large red potatoes a Mexican farmer has – and they are so delicious, so naturally buttery, that they are fine plain, with a little salt. Sometimes we fry leftovers in a little oil with an egg and other leftovers – mushrooms, garlic, onions, whatever is at hand. These are simple, easy meals fit for kings and queens, which is what we feel like when we eat this delicious food.

Another way we cook them is to roast them with sweet potatoes and garlic. Try to slice the potatoes and sweet potatoes roughly the same size so they will cook comparably. With your hands mix with olive oil and water to moisten and mostly cover the vegetables. Roast in 9×13 or similarly large glass cooking pan about 2-3 inches deep (don’t fool yourself that a smaller one 8×8 will be adequate) at 425-450 until done, 30-60 minutes depending. You can try cooking them with other vegetables – carrots, turnips, rutabagas – but this is our favorite combination. We don’t make this too often because it is so rich!


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 7:56 am

Hi Lois, Thanks so much for sharing your preferred potato recipes. Big fan of roasted veggies here, too, I like adding parsnips in the mix too.


Monica Bhide April 18, 2011 at 8:16 am

Here to support the spud! I cannot believe that insane press release! LOVE SPUDS!


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 8:29 am

Thanks for adding your voice, Monica, in praise of potatoes.


Daily Spud April 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

Well said Sarah. As I mentioned on Twitter, I received that outrageous call to denigrate the potato and posted about it, though I think you’ve captured an awful lot of what I didn’t say in the post but was definitely thinking. As for a favourite potato recipe, I’ve got a whole blog full of them :)
Daily Spud´s last [type] ..Spud Sunday- Defender Of The Spud


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

Pleasure to meet another potato lover, welcome Daily Spud. And thanks for your kind words. Just checked out your site too. Heads up to potato people: Check out the spud-centric dishes on offer here:


nancy olin heldt April 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

As always, loving your post. Speaking of high fructose corn syrup, there is a good article in this past Sunday’s NYT mag “Sweet And Vicious The Case against Sugar”. The next time you and Felicity boil up some potatoes, please do give me a call. I just made made some yummy red lentil soup but tomorrow night…Potatoes it is!


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Hi Nancy, Thanks for writing. And yes, have seen the NYTM’s story of sugar, which is getting a lot of attention, as you might imagine.

As for sharing some spuds out in West Marin some time soon: You’re on!


Felicity April 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I am so glad that our humble potatoes are receiving so much attention. Next time you come over you’ll have to try my roasties.


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Look forward to those roasties, Felicity.


Scott Lyon April 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Hi Sarah,

A quick note of apology for offending you with the Un-potato contest promotion. After visiting Charmian and Daily Spuds’ blogs I wanted to share that it wasn’t our intent to malign the food value of potatoes in any way.

The contest was intended to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to help [COMPANY NAME DELETED] promote [CONVENIENCE FOOD-LIKE SUBSTANCE DELETED] and their humorous ad campaign.

Once again, my apologies and there’s definitely been a lesson learned!


Scott Lyon
Blogger Outreach Manager
Technorati Media


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Appreciate the apology, Scott, thanks for writing. Has the un-potato campaign been rescinded, in light of the lesson learned? Real food advocates certainly hope so.


Julie Negrin April 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Great post, Sarah! It’s amazing what lengths the food industry will go to promote their chemically-based products….In defense of potatoes, especially right before Passover! Hope you’re well.


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Thanks, Julie, couldn’t agree more.


Alexandra April 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm

This is absolutely incredible. Potatoes are my husband’s favorite food. We grow them, therefore. Once you eat organic potatoes, you don’t want any other kind. Gee. Do those PR people think foodies are stupid, or what? I’m not even a foodie and I know the difference. Give me real organic food any day over refined flour, high fructose corn syrup (Yum, GMOs!) and salt. What in the world are they thinking?
Alexandra´s last [type] ..Thoughts While Walking to Dyer Pond


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm

What I think, Sandy, is that these PR folks are sorry they did a mass mailing that included food peeps who favor real food.


Danielle April 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Goodness, I couldn’t believe the title of this post when I read it in my reader. Seriously? Potatoes? The humble tuber that fed the Incans and now South America for centuries – is “boring”? If so, I’m glad to be a boring eater.

My favorite ways to prepare potatoes: (1) tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted with rosemary and thyme (2) mashed with roasted garlic and (3) homemade french fries!
Danielle´s last [type] ..Blood Orange &amp Mandarinquat Galette


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

We’ll have to share some spuds some time soon, Danielle. Thanks for showing your support for taters (and sharing your fav ways to eat ‘em).


Solomon April 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I’m putting in my vote for potatoes! As a matter of fact,i think I’ll plant some tomorrow, just out of spite for the potato haters. LOL.
Solomon´s last [type] ..SweetingRanch- Chinas Cabinet Calls For Stronger Seed Industry – FoxBusinesscom http-tco-EAFXPiS via @foxbusiness


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Thanks for weighing in against the spud bashers, Solomon. Happy potato planting.


Alisa Bowman April 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I’m curious if any bloggers sold out and did it. But I will come to a potato’s defense. Just had one for dinner tonight.
Alisa Bowman´s last [type] ..Save Your Marriage


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 9:13 pm
Susi April 18, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Here, here, long live the mighty spud. Brings a whole new perspective to ‘what lies beneath’ !!!


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 9:07 pm

I’ll whip up a batch in your honor when you come visit next month, Suse.


Jennifer Margulis April 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm

This makes me so mad, Sarah, and thank you (and other bloggers) for writing about it. Said company needs to GET OUT OF THE PROCESSED FOOD BUSINESS. Every company does. It’s time for humans to eat human food, not nutrient-deficient toxic crud that is worth less than the cardboard that contains it.


Sarah Henry April 18, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Well said, Jennifer. Looking forward to a trip to my farmers’ market tomorrow where I plan to pick up some of my favorite potatoes.


Kris @ Attainable Sustainable April 18, 2011 at 9:56 pm

All hail food with roots! Where did the idea of “food” coming in boxes originate, anyway. Shame on us.
Kris @ Attainable Sustainable´s last [type] ..Deep Watering in the Garden


Sarah Henry April 19, 2011 at 7:01 am

Indeed, Kris, food with roots. I like that.


Rebecca April 19, 2011 at 5:39 am

I wanted to de-lurk and add my voice to the chorus of those crying, “What the heck were they thinking?” I would also like to mention that the response to my call for potato recipes has been outstanding! I can’t wait to get more potato recipes in the kitty!
Rebecca´s last [type] ..Potato Recipe Round-up


Sarah Henry April 19, 2011 at 7:03 am

Glad you stepped up on behalf of the spud, Rebecca, and nice to see you here.

I recommend readers check out your beautifully photographed potato recipe round-up (link above) for some tasty tater dishes.


The Writer's [Inner] Journey April 19, 2011 at 6:43 am

I am a long-time fan of The Potato (in its natural state!) and am so glad to see you and others defend its name!
The Writer’s [Inner] Journey´s last [type] ..2 views- “Writing well is probably going to hurt” vs “marching you through the writer’s life”


Sarah Henry April 19, 2011 at 7:05 am

Who knew so many people had such passion for the potato?


Christine April 19, 2011 at 8:09 am

This seems simply ridiculous! I have always and will continue to always love the humble potato. One of my favorite stories from my mother’s childhood is how she and her siblings all would keep their hands warm on their way to school in Korea by sticking warm roasted potatoes in their pockets.
Christine´s last [type] ..Blue- blue hat


Sarah Henry April 19, 2011 at 8:44 am

Love that image, Christine. Thanks for sharing your mother’s story here.


robin April 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Props to you, thanks for sticking up for Real Food. I made scalloped potatoes with real local, grass fed cream and sharp cheddar for my private clients on Monday and it was ravaged on the cooling rack as soon as I turned my back. you just can’t argue with tasty.


Sarah Henry April 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm

That does sound good, Robin. You have lucky clients.


Jane Boursaw April 19, 2011 at 5:30 pm

What the…? That bash-the-potato campaign from said nameless company is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard recently! I’m for sure the offspring of my dad, who always said, “If you’ve got potatoes, you can make a meal.” And he wasn’t talking about some faux-potato in a box.
Jane Boursaw´s last [type] ..DVD Spotlight- TRON and TRON- Legacy


Sarah Henry April 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Well said, Jane. And I’m with your dad: I’ve been known to build a meal around some spuds.


rivka April 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm

You’re blog is so inspiring! I’ve been on a potatoe kick by steaming them and putting them in a salad which I add homemade sauerkraut, toasted walnuts and avocado to and it’s a meal in itself.


Sarah Henry April 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Speaking of inspiring: That meal you describe, your homemade sauerkraut, and your school garden curriculum. Glad to hear you’re enjoying spring spuds too.


Jaime April 20, 2011 at 6:03 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you! My dad is a potato farmer and I often find myself defending potatoes to people who are convinced that potatoes are just nutritionally deficient starches, a notion that started with the anti carb diets, rather than the incredibly healthy food that they are. My kids have potatoes all the time and love them :)


Sarah Henry April 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

So nice to hear from the child of a potato farmer. And you raise a good point. To be honest, I have long passed over potatoes in favor of more complex carbohydrates such as quinoa and brown rice, especially since my son wasn’t fussed by spuds.

But since he’s decided he likes the taste and texture of taters, they’ve made a welcome comeback in our home. A few nutritional facts may be worth noting here: This starch staple contains minerals such as potassium, iron, and calcium and scores high in vitamin C. Beware: boiling dramatically lowers their C content, as does peeling, so steaming well-scrubbed spuds with their skins intact is the way to go from a health perspective.

As for calorie content: The issue is more what we pile on (high-fat butter, sour cream, and cheese, for starters) our spuds. A little of that goes a long way. Instead, try herbs, spices, and aromatics (dill, caraway, and garlic, for instance) all of which pair well with potatoes.


MyKidsEatSquid April 21, 2011 at 9:29 am

Roasted, mashed, fried, baked, I love potatoes any way they come.


Sarah Henry April 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Good to know, MKES, I suspect you’re far from alone.


Jill Silverman Hough April 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

A little late to the party but, just, yay you for posting this post!


Sarah Henry April 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Never too late to party, Jill, thanks for the shout out of support for spuds.


solomon April 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Wow! Lots of people really love them taters. Maybe potatoes should be used as an alternative energy, cause a lot of mileage was achieved in this post. Go potatoes! Although i do love my sweet potatoes also. ;-).


Sarah Henry April 21, 2011 at 11:08 pm

I know, Solomon, who knew that a post on potatoes would generate so much support? As for sweet potato, count me among the fans of this tuber too.


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