Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Potato World

Woodstock, New Brunswick

We went to the "Potato World" museum today. It rocked me back on my heels. The massive explosion of human knowledge and technology is nowhere more evident than in striving to understand how to grow a simple potato. A lovely five-sided potato flower waves over the New Brunswick fields in Spring.

Potatoes were discovered in Peru on the west side of South America in the 16th century and exported back to Europe. There they were largely regarded as poisonous (since they were a member of the nightshade family) until French peasants began to cultivate and eat them. Irish immigrants brought the potato to New Brunswick.

The branches of knowledge necessary to successfully cultivate and market potatoes in the modern age are mind-boggling. One must know how to rotate fields, cross-plow to prevent erosion and it help to have a tractor plugged into a GPS with a digger measuring the yield of each square meter so that the proper fertilizers can be applied in a remedial manner.

The knowledge gets deeper and thicker with certified seed crops and genetically engineered species of potatoes that are resistant to dozens of blights and weevils. The technology needed to make french fries efficiently is so lovely and crisp that it's like a diamond glowing in the center of my forehead.

Both Mrs. Phred and myself are deeply moved by them museum and suddenly an epiphany strikes us that we both can trace our impossibly improbable existences (the combination of a specific egg and sperm in a place and time) to emigration caused by potato blights before we (mankind) brought the potato under a semblance of complete scientific control.

The potato produces more protein per acre than any vegetable other than the soybean. It produces more energy per acre than any crop other than the sugar beet and sugar cane. A medium size potato is 100 calories and the skin has many essential vitamins. Compare this and the taste of french fries with 300 calories for a cup of rice and you begin to understand why I regard the potato as the "king of vegetables".

My mind is reeling from the complexity of cultivating the potato. The hierarchy and depth of knowledge that goes into the french fry and the potato chip is a blinding beacon reminding us of the value of the scientific method and the hyperbolic explosion of human knowledge.

We also saw the world's longest covered bridge today in Hartland, N.B. It's 1292 feet, about a quartermile...a top fuel dragster could hit well over 300 MPH from a standing start crossing it...

We're making a run to Bangor in the morning to stock up on the pills I need to keep my blood pressure down. We have a wonderful campground here with free Wi-fi on the banks of the St. Johns river. There are four tennis courts about two miles down the road in Woodstock. Maybe I'll score a win over Mrs. Phred?

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