Sunday, 21 February 2010

Mash for Brains

This afternoon, I attended the local potato and heirloom seed swap in town. I grow my own vegetables organically, and it was a great opportunity to get a nice big bag of mixed varieties of seed potatoes, which I did, but nothing could have prepared me for the strange demonstrations of ineptitude and futility I was about to encounter.

Some people would rather devise pointless gimmicks to get funding in the name of resource-wasting nonsense games in the guise of being “green” than really do something to conserve energy. It’s much easier to con people into giving you money than it is to dig the earth, grow your own food, cook from scratch, stop wasting stuff, and be reasonably useful...I guess.

It was a swindle of this nature which caught my sceptic’s eye—a large sign above a booth which read:

No Energy Cooking!

OK, right off the bat, we know that’s rubbish. Basic laws of physics, right? Plus, there should really be a hyphen in that phrase, but I’ll let that part slide for the moment.

Don’t worry, it gets worse.

Below the sign was a featureless plywood box, next to a plate of cut up baked potatoes and toppings which were being methodically grazed by a small herd of middle-aged women who clearly think they’ve stumbled upon a technological marvel, judging by their exuberant full-mouthed mumblings.

A new person approached the table, looked at the box, perplexed, and spoke...

Punter: So, how does it work?

Charlatan: (removes lid and pillow like sack) Well, see, these sacks are full of hay.

Punter: Hay?

Charlatan: Yeah, hay. There are some potatoes in there. Feel in there how warm it is.

Punter: (inserts hand) It’s a little bit warm.

Charlatan: Yeah, well, you see, we’ve been taking the lid off all afternoon. If we hadn’t, it would be warmer.

Punter: Where does the heat come from?

Charlatan: Um, well, um, see, if you were to cook a casserole in the oven for half an hour, and then put it in here, in about eight hours it would be cooked, whereas normally you’d have to cook it in the oven for an hour.

[At this point my food safety alarm goes off. I’m thinking about the likely possibility of under-cooked food, and storage for hours at an optimal temperature for bacterial growth, but the dialogue continues without touching on that subject of food poisoning.]

Punter:’s just...insulation then? Made of hay? In a box?

Charlatan: Um...yes. You can have a leaflet if you want. It explains all about it. Please take one.

Punter: So, those are already baked potatoes, baked in a normal oven, and they’re just being kept warm in that thing?

Charlatan: That’s right.

Punter: Would they continue to cook at all?

Charlatan: Well, maybe a little bit. If we weren’t taking the lid off. I’m not really sure actually. Take a leaflet. It explains all about how it works.

Just then I was distracted by a woman who had somehow managed to commandeer a microphone on the other side of the floor. She was talking about her latest invention, which she said was some kind of “new type of potato sack”.

Um. Yeah. OK.

I grabbed my spuds and made a run for it.

On the walk home, this piece of litter caught my eye.

...and closer:

Potato Dog?


I tried to picture for a moment the mutant foodstuff which the package proclaims to have once contained, then decided that, truly, I didn’t want to know.

I wondered momentarily if the leaflets I had handled an hour before had been pre-soaked in LSD (when I went to the cheese fair last year, I ate some cheese which caused fantastic hallucinations followed by an 18-hour migraine, so it’s a perfectly valid first step when faced with unexplained phenomena to rule out psychotropic contaminants), but I eventually deduced that, no, there is absolutely no drug powerful enough to cause my brain to interpret a piece of roadside litter in quite this way.

Must be real.

Reality is weird.

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