Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Zucchini logic with sweet potatoes

 The long campaign continues. It's not quite a lifetime long, like Gandhi's against violence. Nonetheless, many miles have passed beneath my sandals as I've advanced my theme.

  For more than a quarter century each year around Thanksgiving, I have carried out a lonely and thankless campaign about sweet potatoes. Message: Think before you eat.

  Because, surely, sweet potatoes are not for oral application.

  I know this to be true, because I ate sweet potato once. Once.

  Now, you might ask: "Why only a quarter century? You are at least a little bit older than that. Before a quarter century ago, what were you doing relative to such a crucial public issue? Wasting your words and your platform? Wasting precious time to inform humanity?" Yes and no.

   The fact is, I heard the call to inform people back in the '80s when I moved to the South and detected a veneration of (read: misconception about) sweet potatoes that I hadn't while living in the North.

  So, I started writing about this matter — this orange, stringy, steamy, often-subjugated-by-marshmallow-cream matter.

  Once again, however: What was I doing all those years before I took up this cause?

  Well, of course, I was writing anti-zucchini columns.

  This is when I lived and wrote in my home state of Colorado. I didn't write my anti-zucchini columns at Thanksgiving time, but rather earlier in the fall — harvest time for backyard-grown zucchinis. That is when armies of Coloradans parade up and down their neighborhood streets with arms full of oversized zucchinis, some as big as torpedoes.

  They have no use for all of that vegetable matter, so they go around trying to pawn their zucchinis off on friends. Whatever the intent, this is not my idea of kinship. Back when I was a newspaperman in Colorado, I wrote about it.

   The sad thing about zucchini is that when people cannot find unsuspecting victims onto whom to dump the giant cucumbers, they retreat to their kitchens to come up with recipes with which to (get this) EAT the zucchini.

   After I expressed my concerns about this in print, it seemed that not a dinner invitation went by that someone did not seek to sneak something containing zucchini onto my plate. I did not bite.

   "But zucchini is nutritious and full of fiber," I was told.

   "So are (1) tree bark; (2) grass clippings," I replied.

  Fast-forward to the present and the push for truth: that sweet potatoes couldn't possibly be what's for dinner.

  Not only are they food, but they're the "perfect food," say the apologists, "full of vital minerals."

  Yes, and so is molybdenum.

  I have to keep pointing out that I am not opposed to sweet potatoes per se, just to eating them. They have dozens of uses — ethanol, plastic, dye. Just not anything involving a fork.

   All right. So, now we live in Colorado. This summer my wife, in our small backyard garden plot, did what Coloradans do: plant zucchini. Not surprisingly, we had more than we cared to eat.

   Noticing that our dogs love fresh produce, like carrots, she decided to see if they would eat sliced zucchini when mixed with their dog food. They loved it. All of our excess zucchini went away in a flash. We did not have to show up at our neighbors' doorsteps with armfuls.

  Once the zucchini supply was exhausted, Becky looked for other vegetables the dogs might like. She was reminded that the pet store has dog treats made of sweet potato. So, from the grocery store came home an orange tuber the size and shape of a bazooka shell.

  Sliced up, it went into the dogs' meal. They gobbled it up. "At last," I thought, "I have a reason to praise the sweet potato this Thanksgiving."

 Not so fast. Almost as soon as the sweet potato went into the dogs, extremely foul gaseous aromas began to come out.

 We had to evacuate the house.

 Message: Sweet potatoes may be fit for dogs, but what emanates, at least with my dogs, may not be fit for humans  unless they have severe adenoid problems.

 The long campaign continues.

  Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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