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Bag of spuds fed the class

GAYS MILLS - Potatoes are good food year round, but they are extra good in the winter. Potatoes are a great comfort food, filling and starchy, versatile and inexpensive. Good fuel food for battling a polar vortex. Once, in an eighth grade class on Exploring Agriculture, I used potatoes as an edible-teaching aid.

We were discussing food, the variety of it, the cost of it, and the fact that it all comes from a farm, sometimes from far away. I explained to the class of about 20 that if I took all of them to McDonalds and bought them lunch it might cost $100 to feed them.  If we went to a family restaurant, that outing might cost $300. And, we could go to a fancier place and the bill there could easily be up to $1,000.

I floated the idea that I could feed them all for $5. And the food would be natural, healthy, nutritious, and something they would all probably like. They were up for the idea, being the enthusiastic, growing, and usually hungry ‘seniors’ in Junior High that they were. We set a date. I bought a 50-pound bag of russets at ten cents a pound-such a deal.

The school cafeteria staff agreed to help me with the project, thank goodness. They peeled and boiled the spuds in one of the big cauldrons that they had available. A couple of students organized paper plates, salt and pepper, butter, and utensils and transported all to the student commons. The class met  and the feast began. Several bowls of steaming potatoes made for a pretty bland looking feast, but the students dug in gamely.

Ideally, teaching should involve as many of the five senses as possible. This was a rare opportunity to use the sense of taste and it seemed to be going well–for a few minutes anyway. Very soon, some students had slowed down or stopped eating. Size and gender of student didn’t seem to be a determining factor in how much was consumed. 

Theoretically, every student’s share of the potatoes was two-and-a-half pounds. Instead of a side dish, the filling potatoes were the entire meal. Even two-and-a-half pounds of potatoes proved to be a lot to get around. But they did it!  Some ate more than their share. The champion eater was a svelte young female student who surprised us all. She was like the champion you see in various nausea-inducing competitive eating contests, really mowing away bite after bite.

I hope our little classroom experiment didn’t cause anyone to lose their long-term appetite for potatoes.