The great Idaho vs Maine potato debate: finding common ground

In the aftermath of the great potato debate between me and my Idaho writing friend, Elaine Ambrose, I have to admit I’ve been depressed.

I thought things were going well for me in my arguments about why Maine potatoes are superior until she uncovered the statistics about Idaho acreage, size, and domination in the potato market. I had no rebuttal coming from the relatively tiny state of Maine and the even smaller county of Aroostook.

When she boasted about their annual Potato Bowl, the giant potato that tours the country on the back of a truck, and the potato museum, I felt acid erupt into my mouth which I recognized as the bile of jealousy.

Plus she used every possible word play related to potatoes in her argument – smashed, fried, half-baked, vegetate, hash, and dig, leaving not even a shoestring for me to work with as I write this.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I buried my feelings during the holidays and gave thanks to God that everyone at my table had voted for the Maine potato and no one in my inner circle had fallen for the arrogance of the Idaho potato empire.

As I dove into a steaming bowl of Caribou Russets I was nourishing my body and my one-sided convictions. But something happened as I gorged on this new Maine variety of spuds developed by University of Maine researchers and the Maine Potato Board.

Everyone said they were delicious but mine tasted bitter.

I thought about Elaine and how fun she is. I thought about our shared heritage of growing up on a potato farm, working hard and carrying that work ethic into our adult lives.

Elaine is an award-winning author and spoke at the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop

I reflected on our mutual love of potatoes and how these vitamin packed tubers had shaped us and given us a source of pride. I thought about how boring it would be if only one state produced potatoes. Not to mention there would be a worldwide shortage of this delectable vegetable.

I decided to figuratively reach across the table to embrace Idaho and my friend’s potatoes. I might even try one to see what all the fuss is about. Don’t worry, they won’t be a staple in our home, but trying to taste things from her side of the debate probably won’t kill me or change my long-held beliefs about potatoes.

I chuckled at the thought of two women in their 60’s being spokespersons for our state’s potato industry. How times have changed from the 1950’s when it would have been a housewife, wearing a dress and an apron.

I celebrated the fact that Maine’s own Susan Collins, a native of Aroostook County, was instrumental in changing the law to allow white potatoes into the WIC grocery cart, removing the stigma from potatoes grown in Maine and Idaho.

I appreciated the University of Maine research that has led to better seed potatoes, new varieties, and better farming techniques for all potato farmers.

I marveled at how good I felt when I realized there are enough mouths to feed in the world to support the potato industry in both Maine and Idaho.

Suddenly our differences were unimportant. What mattered was our mutual love of potatoes.

When I showed Elaine a preview of this essay she graciously invited me to meet halfway to share a potato bar. But she noted: “Iowa is the midpoint between our states and I don’t want to go to Iowa, so as a consolation let’s meet in Hawaii and concoct Tiki Tubers.” I can embrace this idea with enthusiasm!

Have you been able to reach across the table to embrace the deeply held beliefs of someone whose opinion doesn’t match yours? How have you been able to swallow the bitterness of your differences?


©2017, Stevens. All rights reserved.

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35 thoughts on “The great Idaho vs Maine potato debate: finding common ground

  1. Loved the post! Of course, being a Maine girl, I’d vote for Maine potatoes…here on the Farmstead, we grow our own. When it comes to potatoes or people, it’s not about the differences, it’s all about all of those wonderful ways we’re alike. Three cheers for potatoes and people; I’ll vote for them all wherever they may be! 🙂 xo

    • Thank you Bette. Maine potatoes are the best but let’s not tell Elaine. And people with differences do have so many wonderful things in common. We just need to focus on that and embrace the differences as ways to make things spicy, isn’t that right?

  2. I still fondly remember the one time I was in Maine eating at a steak house and ordering a locally grown baked potato. I don’t remember the variety I just remember it was freaking delicious. 15 years later I’m reminiscing about a simple baked potato I had in Maine. It was that good!

      • Gotta be honest, lobster is about the only thing in the ocean I don’t like. I’ve had Maine lobster so and just didn’t jive with me :).

        • Since you were honest, I’m going to come clean. I don’t like lobster. I do like a lot of other seafood like scallops, clams, oysters, shrimp. And even though I look adorable in the bib, I don’t like lobster.

  3. Okay, I must admit that I had no idea potatoes were grown in Maine. I learned something new today. Also- hey, what’s wrong with Iowa? It’s one of the very best states!

  4. But really, it’s not the taste that counts—it’s how you pronounce them, right? (I’m one of those terrible tasters that can’t tell the difference between salt & pepper—ok, that’s a little extreme, but you know what I mean!—but say a word with a different pronunciation and I’m all over it!!)
    Po-tah-toe or Po-Tay-toe??? How do you say it???

    • Oh, the taste counts, Jodie. And there is a difference. But as for pronunciation my father always called them po-da-dahs. I can’t say it the way he did but he riddled the word with ‘d’s.

  5. Idaho’s big boost in potato sales came after a chance meeting in 1954. An Idaho man named Jack Simplot had perfected a way to quick-freeze french fries, making them more readily transportable. Then, at a trade show, Simplot met a man named Ray Kroc. Simplot convinced the former milk shake blender salesman to give him an exclusive contract to supply french fries to Kroc’s new enterprise – McDonalds.

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