CAITLIN MO­RAN

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UPFRONT -

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?’”

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