One year, in the refrigerator, at the bottom of a plastic bag, I had one potato that had sprouted eyes like purple tentacles. I buried it in the vegetable garden for kicks and forgot about it. At the end of the season, after the first frost turned the greens to black slime, I decided to dig it up. I pushed the garden fork into the soil, pressing downward with my foot. I felt something underground - resistance. So as not to gouge the potatoes, I backed off the fork and moved out a little. I pushed again. More resistance. Moving outward, I pushed in again. I kept at this, moving further and further out each time. I was thinking, "What the hell is under there?!" It couldn't be a potato! It would have to be the size of a Volkswagen! Eventually, I dug up a lone potato that was, in fact, the size of a Volkswagen. Or, to be honest, maybe a SmartCar. I swear - it had a pulse or at least, its own zip code. It was enormous! It was so big, that I couldn't bring myself to chop it up. It was a country fair freak show vegetable, a side show. It could have been featured in a tent; to enter, only people over 18 could get a ticket. "Come one! Come all! Get a peek at the pulsing, colossus!" the hawker would chant to passers by. At the very least, it could have starred in a David Lynch cult movie. After all, there was weird asparagus in the 1977 classic, Eraserhead. I had a star on my hands! I decided to take it to work.
At the time, I worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield, or "Blue Cross Blue Cheese," as I liked to call it. By any name, it was a white collar cubicle hell that would have put Dilbert in a psychiatric unit. It was a staid, dull work place. And, that was before Community Supported Agriculture groups (CSAs) and before "organic" became a markettable concept. "Take A Vegetable To Work Day" had not yet been conceived, either.
I wasn't the only one who brought produce to work. However, others generally brought things like fat and sugar laden zucchini bread, or maybe a daring jar of Bread And Butter pickles, certainly not a humungous, grotesque, single potato. Well, there was that woman who brought the incessant dahlias. Her dahlias kept on giving until I wanted to scream. I like dahlias, but when a person insists on giving them to you over and over again because they can't stop them selves and neither can their dahlias, well that's another thing entirely. When no one would take them anymore, she showed up with mayonnaise jars full of them every day. The office looked like a dahlia funeral home. They were everywhere! The receptionist's head was not even visible when a person entered the building. When a visitor approached her desk, they talked to a big, pink or yellow or peach or white dahlia depending on the day. Sometimes it was deep red ones that looked like raw beef steak on a stick. I can't even remember the dahlia woman's name. Dahlia? Maybe her name was actually Dahlia. Come to think of it, I can't remember her face either. I only have this image of a doughty, female form with a head like a giant, "Dinner Plate" dahlia. It's not an attractive image, either. The body is a mayonnaise jar with a voice speaking from a dahlia face. It's hideous, a nightmare to be sure. I know what you're thinking: I brought the giant potato to the same place of employment. But I only did that once.
We had just recently been given e mail in the office. E mail was a brand new tool and it was only available in house. The Internet existed, but only the military had it. Can you imagine that? All of our information sharing was done on paper in the form of memos. There was a lot of grumbling and complaining about e mail. "What do we have to learn to do this for?" And there were people who refused to learn to do it. But, I embraced the whole idea. I was a quick study and learned to use it very quickly. One of the first things I did was tell the entire two hundred plus cubicles about my potato.
I raffled it off. I didn't take money, much as I would have liked to. I understood the power of e mail and what I could gain from it, but I had limits. That's the only reason I wasn't the original founder of eBay. Even I realized I could lose my job by exploiting my potato and using company resources to do it. So, I had people guess the weight of the potato. The person who came closest could have the potato cooked to their specifications by me. I was a pretty decent cook, so this was an incentive. I made a whole 9x13 dish of au'gratin from that single potato which weighed...............2.8 pounds. It seemed like a anti-climactic end to the splendid spud, but after all - at it's heart it was just a potato.
With the tomatoes bestowed upon me last week, I made cream of tomato soup. I had left over brown rice and used about a cup of lovage. I have lovage in my minuscule container garden. It was given to me by another crazed gardener, of course. Even my son the chef doesn't know what lovage is, never mind what to do with it, I asked. I used fresh thyme, basil and parsley. The cream base was fat free Greek yogurt and milk. I threw in a couple of generous glugs of white wine - the remaining quarter cup at the bottom of the bottle where the fruit flies had drowned. David loved the soup so much, he's been dreaming about it at night. He thrashes in his sleep and babbles about it during the day as if driven insane. "That tomato soup was so good! I drive around town and see everybody's tomatoes going to hell and I just want to take them. It's driving me crazy.........." he trailed off. He seemed confused, dazed, in a tomato haze. Maybe I'll ask him if he wants to star in a movie.............I'll call it "Tomato Crazy."
This is another cooking drama from which bad dreams were born. Stay tuned.