The Perfect Life #6: Problem-Solving With Potatoes

Dear Dr. Perfect,

What is the appropriate way to eat a baked potato? The answer has begun to plague my marriage in ways I had never imagined. My wife outright delivered an ultimatum during dinner the other night. She said that she’ll leave me if I don’t start eating mine “the correct way.” I asked her what way that would be, and she refused to say. She could just be looking for an excuse, but up until now, our marriage was the picture of happiness. Where do we go from here? I slice mine in half, then apply butter and bacon bits. I don’t even like baked potatoes, but everything is riding on this. Please help solve this crisis before it ends my marriage for good.

With gratitude,

Shuddering and Spuddering


Dear S & S,

This question has plagued civilization since Roman times. Well, for all I know, they weren’t eating potatoes back then. I do believe it was a subject of intellectual discussion during the Renaissance, a real “hot potato,” if you will. Leonardo Da Vinci was rumored to have thrown a fully loaded baked potato at an early Mona Lisa sketch he couldn’t get right. Fast forward to the nineteenth century, to Ireland’s Great Potato Famine, and you’ll find varying degrees of records on this greatly contested issue.

Let’s begin with how I eat my baked potato. There’s really nothing to it. I boil mine in a Terra cotta pot over an open fire for about three and a half hours. That’s about thirty minutes a pound, if you’re counting. Prior to this routine, I usually invite guests over for a night of casual banter and wine, where we drink and exchange high society gossip while indulging in the finest appetizers. One evening, I panicked upon realizing I was all out of blini for the caviar and used a box of Triscuits instead. The discreet switch turned out to be a hit, with many guests none the wiser. Our entree consisted of pepper steak stir fry, Borscht, and baked potato. I can tell you, as someone who runs in fairly sophisticated social circles, that there is only one proper way to eat a baked potato. Perhaps your wife is privy to this insight, and I can save you a lot of trouble by just telling you now.

Your first obvious blunder involves the initial urge to cut the potato in half. You might as well just beat the poor thing with a club like some neanderthal. You must roll the potato, preferably on small plate of simmering butter. Gently turn the potato until it’s relatively marinated. Next, cut an impeccably shaped opening about two inches in diameter and a half inch wide in the center of the potato. Add approximately four spoonfuls of sour cream, one ounce of butter, two tablespoons of chives, five ounces of shredded cheddar, half a cup of bacon bits, four diced tomatoes, and two ounces of tequila. This should be about as right as you can possibly be.

You might also consider that your wife may have ulterior motives. We advice columnists often refer to this as spousal entrapment. She could just as easily lament your postures or critique the placement garbage cans within the proper distance from the curb. While her admonishment of your pedestrian mastery of potato-eating is understandable, she could be deliberating upon your marriage’s end altogether. You’re right to suspect that she’s searching for an excuse. Offer to make dinner one night. Keep it simple with steak and potatoes. Serve the food and excuse yourself to the lavatory.

As you take in inordinate amount of time in the lavatory, take comfort in the private investigator you’ve hired to snap pictures of her from the patio. She’ll naturally prepare her potato and even have a few bites as she waits. You’ll have all the evidence you need of her preferred method. This plan is not foolproof, however. She might wait for you to return just to wait and see how you do it first. The proper way to eat a potato is an entirely different story. You might be tempted to use a fork and knife, cutting and pulling the potato apart as steam rises. This again is incorrect.

You must gently scoop the insides with a potato spoon. Not a soup spoon, dessert spoon or, God forbid, cereal spoon, this has to be an officially-designated potato spoon. You can find one at any high-end cutlery center. You hold the potato spoon in one hand and your dinner fork in the other, prodding and mashing and picking delicate bites until only the skin remains. Then cut the skin into equally proportional bites and consume.

If you don’t have a glass of red wine on hand, then you’ve already failed the next test. I prefer white myself, but those are the rules. Like you, I don’t much care for potatoes in general, but go through the motions to remain a good standing member of society.

The potato might just be a symbol of your crumbling marriage. In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle faced ridicule during a spelling bee competition, where he altered a young student’s correct spelling of the word to “potatoe.” In an obvious setup, the card he used had the wrong spelling, and he didn’t trust his own judgement. He was, like you, another victim of circumstance. There’s still hope though. Potato sliders in any case are known to quell differences, and you can just as easily eat those with your hands.

If you want my real advice, be prepared. Serve potatoes with every meal until she grows tired of the charade. Eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Slip potato wedges into your sandwiches. Make potato soup. Purchase Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head accessories from the local market. If she gets on your case about your strange potato obsession, remind her about what an important food source it is. After a few weeks of this, she most likely will never bring up potatoes again, and you can drop the matter, continuing the blissful marriage you once had.

Dr. Perfect has slung advice across the globe for the last two decades due to his dedication to the uplift of the human condition.

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