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Students talk about the versatility of potatoes and their importance in meals

Illustration of a potato with a golden crown sitting in a director's chair

According to the Centro Internacional Patata (International Potato Center), “The potato is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. More than a billion people worldwide eat potatoes.”

American potato dishes

“They are versatile,” said Delphia Lloyd, a hospitality and tourism management major junior from Idaho. She and other students from BYU–Hawaii named different kinds of dishes that come from potatoes. Lloyd named “mashed potatoes, stout potatoes, French fries, funeral potatoes, potato ice cream, stir fry with potatoes, and potato soup.” As part of Lloyd’s “broke college student diet,” she said she buys “a bag of potatoes” and makes a baked potato in the microwave when she is in a rush.

Eli Clark, a business management sophomore from Idaho, added “hash browns, waffle fries and shredded scalloped potatoes” to the list.

Mapuana Tauala, a political science junior from Aiea, brought up potato bars. Taula said, “Potatoes are like an open canvas that you can [add condiments on]. Everything goes with potatoes.”

She also brought up the other root vegetables that are similar to potatoes because they are also root vegetables. Many people have their own version, in a way, of potatoes, she said. “In the Pacific, they have taro” and yams in Africa.

Not only is the potato versatile in its food offerings, Tauala said, It is used in “science experiments where you can conduct electricity through potatoes. There’s also potato guns.”

Significance of potatoes in Idaho

According to Clark, the reason for Idaho being culturally intertwined with potatoes is J.R. Simplot and the Idaho Potato Commission. “[Simplot] started the Simplot Company. The potatoes for the curly fries at the Seasider are from Simplot.”

Clark said Simplot bought land in Idaho and found out potatoes, as well as onions and beets, grow well there. “The ground has the right composition of sand and clay or whatever to make it a really good growing environment for potatoes. They just grow insanely [well] there.

“Personally, I feel like everybody knows Idaho potatoes [because] of the Idaho Potato Commission.” According to their website, the Idaho Potato Commission is a state agency that is responsible for promoting and protecting the [Grown in Idaho] seal.”

Clark said one thing the Idaho Potato Commission does is have a huge semi-truck with a 40-foot long fake potato drive around the country to advertise Idaho potatoes. They also give away free pins with a potato that says Idaho on it. He said because of this propaganda, he is always associated with potatoes.

Nostalgic spuds

Lloyd said she used to take potatoes for granted, until she came to Hawaii. “I didn’t love potatoes until I was gone. Potatoes were just a thing and they were always there, but when I came to Hawaii and I came to the Cafeteria and they had fake mashed potatoes then I realized what I was missing. You don’t love something until it’s gone.”

Clark said he “likes them as much as the average person. [He does not] eat them every day as some people believe.” Clark said he did not grow potatoes, he grew up in a farming environment, but was not a farmer himself.