I’d never thought of potatoes as sexy before, but a new ad campaign is forcing me to reconsider spud love.
CAN potatoes be sexual? This is something we are being made to ponder by the current UK Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board advertising campaign.
The premise is simple: the time for simply eating potatoes is over. That is the action of a more basic age, guys. We have now entered an era where we must also fancy spuds, as well. In particular, this is the summer of getting hot for the breakout star of the poster campaign – a small, cheeky boiled potato wearing sunglasses and reclining on a double bed. A double bed he wants you to jump into, you mad, hungry, horny bitch.
“Looking for fat-free and easy?” the poster asks, as we stare at him. “You just got lucky.”
In many ways, this is a seminal moment for potato representation. Before now, if we were to think of a typical anthropomorphic potato, casting-wise, we’d be looking at something redolent of the Mitchell brothers or Ray Winstone. Spuds are traditionally big, gruff, working class and slightly gone to seed – but with a heart of gold. The hard-baked exterior concealing their fluffy interior. That’s just potato logic.
The Love Potatoes potato, by way of contrast, is hitting a whole new demographic – young, cocky, fit and freshfaced, he’s the Jason Gordon-Levitt of the tuber world. He’s got his Ray-Bans on, he’s got an enticingly raised eyebrow, and he’s out to bang you.
And bang you in a weird way: on the bed, next to the sexy potato, is a copy of what is presumably hot in the world of potato pornography – a book entitled 51
Shades for Spuds. The Sexy Potato has put this book here on purpose – his little potato smirk, very redolent of Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, saying, “If you have ever wanted to be sexually dominated by a very tiny boiled potato – then this is your lucky day!”
This idea of potatoes suddenly being fit, sporty and up for beating you on the bottom with a riding crop is, I have to say, troubling me. I would say I am, generally, on a very high centile of people likely to fancy a sexy young potato. Over years of suddenly awkward conversation, I have learnt that not many other people actively fancy, say, St Paul’s Cathedral, yew hedges cut into the shape of a chess piece or Volkswagen campervans. My sexual tastes are pretty broad. “No sentience necessary!” is one of my catchphrases, perv-wise. But even I am having to ask, in a perturbed manner, “Are potatoes sexual?”
For many years, had I been asked what potatoes generally project, relationshipwise, I would have said, “Not sex – but love! Simple, uncomplicated love! Fry them, mash them, boil them, bake them, smother them in butter, immerse them in hot fat, drown them in cream – a potato will take anything you can throw at it, love it, and beg for more. If you let potato into your life, it will drown out all your sorrows in a massive, carby swoon. It’s oxytocin for £1.50. It just wants to be with you. It will make all the badness go away. It just wants to make you content. I would marry a potato in a heartbeat.”
But over the past few years, as my therapist has explained to me the fundamentally abusive relationship I have with food, I have learnt it’s very important not to think that all potatoes love me.
“Potatoes are simply calorific units to provide energy for my needs, such as walking or sitting on a chair,” I would say, now, robotically – conveniently failing to mention last weekend, when my friend Sali told me the biggest emotional breakthrough she has had in the past 10 years is adding a spoonful of Marmite to a buttery baked potato, and topping it with cheese. I rang my husband from the pub, drunk, and told him to put a potato in the oven. When I got home, I put the Marmite in, and sent six pictures to Sali.
“Just said, ‘I do,’ to this,” I captioned it. “We are trying for children.”
I get that potatoes have had a bad decade. The phase “carb-free” on menus and in cookery books has made potatoeating a love that dare not speak its name. Potatoes feel they have to make a big, ballsy comeback – trading on their presumed filthiness, their forbidden nature, their kinkiness. But that’s just playing to society’s prejudice, man. Potatoes are better than this. Potatoes don’t need to turn on the red light. A sexy potato is Attenborough, twerking. It’s a Dench belfie. It’s Seinfeld’s George Constanza doing his “erotic” photoshoot, in pants, on a fur rug. If potatoes get sexed up, the next thing we know, we’ll have chicks in bikinis spraying each other with Bisto, and David Gandy, in pants, holding a bag of Brussels, with the caption “Sun’s out – guns sprout”.
I don’t want my dinner to sexually prey on me. We’re beyond that. The sexy potato issue is now a hot potato issue. Everyone’s going to pass it on.
“I am asking, in a perturbed manner, ‘Are potatoes sexual?’”