Raajeev's Corner - 2019


An Affair to Remember

By Raajeev Aggerwhil

The year was 1993. It was the day before Christmas. I was traveling through the Middle East, staying in Cairo for three days. That trip changed my life. I had a bit of indiscretion and I shared it with my wife. It allowed me to reevaluate my life, look at my marriage and reassess my priorities. It allowed me to figure out what mattered to me most. You see, I was staying at a hotel called, Meena House in Cairo, a very fancy hotel, overlooking the Pyramid of Giza. This was something I had been dreaming about for many years.

In the morning, they served an elaborate buffet which was not surprising because the hotel was owned by the Oberoi. I was looking out at the beautiful, picturesque pyramids. Right then, something even more beautiful caught my attention. These magnificent things obscured the beauty of the Pyramids. They were these beautiful potato balls. Potato balls. I couldn't believe it. All my life I had dreamed of seeing the Pyramids, now that dream came true and all I could think about was these potato balls. I still remember that moment. Right then, I realized that I was a potato addict. I was. I also realized that this addiction has been there all my life, since I was a child.

Potatoes have been an integral part of my life. When I was in 6th grade, I have fond memories of eating potato paranthas with a girl from my school, with the backdrop of the Taj Mahal on a full moon night. I don't remember the girl and I don't remember the view of the Taj Mahal from that visit but I still remember the sumptuous taste of potatoes in the paranthas. I also remember the first time I ate dosa in a fancy South Indian restaurant in New Delhi. I don't remember the name of the restaurant or the sights and smells. The only thing I remember is the taste of those potatoes in the dosa.

Potatoes have been everlasting companions for me. The soft chewy taste of potatoes cheers me up when I am feeling down or stressed out. They relax me. I believe that if people discover the taste of potatoes, the maker of Prozac will be out of business. It's not just the taste of potatoes that makes me passionately fall in love.

To anthropomorphize, potatoes have some amazing qualities that we can all learn from that I admire. Many people think that potatoes don't have a good character; that they will sleep with anybody. I agree. However, even when they sleep with other vegetables, they bring out the best in them.

Take for instance, some popular Indian dishes. In mattar-aloo, potatoes and peas curry, with a splash of tomatoes, potatoes enhance the taste of peas. I remember in fourth grade, when I had jaundice and the doctor put me on a strict diet regimen for a month, the cook in our house made that curry. I still remember that first bite of potatoes while sitting in the verandah of our house in Old Delhi. Potatoes, when mixed with cauliflower, enhances its mushy taste. If potatoes were a geisha it would be the queen of geishas ruling with benevolence and majesty. If you analyze the work ethics of potatoes, you will understand that they give their very best. You peel them, cut them, fry them, you serve them peeled or unpeeled, it doesn't matter.

Their only goal in life is hedonism, bringing joy to our life. They are just like Martha Stewart, bringing happiness in our households.

In these divisive times, we can learn a lot from potatoes. I still remember the taste of gnocchi, at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco several years back. I felt like Julia Roberts from the movie Pretty Woman as she watched an Italian orchestra. I, too, had tears of joy in my eyes. Last year, my son introduced me to Spanish Empanadas. There were so many choices of empanadas, beans, beef, cheese and potatoes. However, the ones that stood out were potato empanadas. Eating those empanadas was like watching a flamenco dancer in harmony with a Spanish orchestra. While eating them, I realized that potatoes transcend culture, race and cuisine. Furthermore, they don't even discriminate among themselves. White, brown, yellow or red, you put all the diverse race of potatoes together in any dish and they work in unison, to give out their best for humanity.

Some would argue that carbs have been on the FDA's most wanted list for many years. Because of that, potatoes have been given a bad rap. It's not their fault. They are good carbs and they have been accused unjustly. I am sure if there is a proper DNA testing, they will be acquitted. Potatoes have also been accused of bringing misery to Dan Quayle's life and stalling his political career. I would argue that it is not their fault; it is the speller's fault.

People still have painful memories of the Irish Potato Famine. Again, it was not their fault. In fact, they were the victims. Potatoes were imported from Peru in the second half of the 16th century by the Spanish and because of their cheap prices, ubiquitous nature, and being able to grow underground by sacrificing their own parts, they helped expand the population of Europe. They were the victims and their name has been unfairly tarnished in history books. It should be renamed the Irish Famine not Irish Potato Famine.

I only have one regret in my life. Growing up in India, I never got to play with Mr. Potato Head. However, I have seen Mr. Potato Head in action — how he brings smiles to the faces of children, adults and senior citizens. I think he alone can unite this country.

I believe that if any candidate, a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, dresses up as Mr. Potato Head and runs for the office of the President of the United States, he or she will get unanimous votes. Our country will be united once again. That is the pedigree of potatoes.

You really have to look beneath the surface and understand all the sacrifices that potatoes have made. I think potatoes are omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. If I were one of the founding fathers, instead of saying, “In God We Trust" I would say, “In Potatoes We Trust."

This past Memorial Day weekend, I was lounging on the sofa at my home in Los Angeles. I was looking out the backyard and admiring the vast metropolis, this magnificent city. Right at that time, my wife came back after doing grocery shopping. I told her, I just had a dream. She smiled and said, “Let me guess? Potatoes. Let's get you some aloo-paranthas." And she pulled those beautiful things out of the grocery bag.

I asked if she can make aloo-tikki instead as it resembled the potato balls I had in the hotel in Cairo. While enjoying the tikkis's and looking at the tall NBC Universal building in the distance, I thought it would have been fun if they had made it in the shape of a pyramid.

I also realized that my affair with potatoes have actually strengthened our marriage. My love for my wife has magnified because of her ability to make a montage of culinary treats with potatoes as the protagonist. And that is the strongest basis for a healthy, long lasting marriage; yet another virtue of the potato!

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Los Angeles-based comedian Raajeev Aggerwhil has starred in Nickelodeon's TV show 100 Things to Do Before High School and also acted in the film based on the television series. See his videos on YouTube.