Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sweet potatoes and assorted mass hysteria

   I saw the man with the tent pitched outside the electronics store, three days before Black Friday. For some reason it made me think of sweet potatoes.

   I wish that I didn't have to think of sweet potatoes at all. Then again, I also wish the same about Grover Norquist. Such is the curse of thinking.

   I'm thinking that you don't wish to be reminded of Black Friday, either. As always, the media have gone full-bore about the annual non-story.

   "Shoppers shop in great numbers. More at 10."

    The question I've been asking ever since the term Black Friday came to be an object of mass hysteria is: How so?

    It wasn't that long ago — 20 years? That no such creature existed. And then, literally overnight and without due justification, Black Friday was everywhere — a living, breathing, snorting, salivating merchandizing beast. "FEED ME."

     Black Friday is the one day when each shop becomes its own Little Shop of Horrors.

     Now, you are asking, why would these horrors remind this guy of sweet potatoes?

     Simply put: I can't explain either phenomenon.

      Black Friday: Why would anyone willingly, even with ample discounts in the package, expose him or herself to the chaos and discomfort attached? The lines. The vicious jostling. Logic cannot be assigned to this.

      Sweet potatoes: Why would anyone place said orange matter in his or her mouth? And swallow? Yes, it takes two steps. Either of them stretches basic human credulity.

      For many years in this space, I have been pointing out that just as there is no reason to stream out to the malls and big-box labyrinths on the day after Thanksgiving, no reason whatsoever should cause Americans to consider sweet potatoes food.

     For some reason sweet potatoes came to be identified with Thanksgiving, a magnificent American tradition.


     I know what some will say: Sweet potatoes are nutritious, "the perfect food," even. That might be the case if indeed the sweet potato were eatable, but it's not. As with all good science, this case is made based on credible research. I ate sweet potato once. Once.

    I don't remember much else about that Thanksgiving 52 years ago, but I remember that it had sweet potato in it. And for one interminable second — "thousand one" — I had sweet potato in me.

   I resolved long ago as a newspaperman that I would do what I could so that such horrors never happened to anyone else.

   Really, who is behind the sweet potato-as-side-dish hysteria? Who started this side-dish hoax? Much like the blight that is Black Friday, which sprang out of nowhere, how did so many Thanksgiving spreads buy in to Orange Thursday?

   Granted, these are not the only mysteries in mass hysteria that we associate with the holidays.

   How did fruit cake happen, and why?

   What is egg nog? Why does it suddenly appeared on grocers' shelves this time of year? Where does it go on Dec. 26 when we ignore it? What is "nog," anyway?

    Granted, much that is irrational is associated with the holidays, the most irrational of which is about to commence tomorrow. That doesn't mean we have to partake, no matter what the media say.

   On that subject, someone just emailed me six "holiday sweet potato recipes," including "bourbon-spiked sweet potato puree" and "sweet potato apple bread pudding."

    How bad do those things sound? Here's how bad: I'd spend a week in a tent in front of an electronics store before I'd have one bite.

     Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:









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