When we were in college, one of my friends dated a fellow who’d grown up in Aroostook County, Maine. Potato country. I can’t remember if he was a “city slicker” (make that town slicker: Presque Isle has about 10,000 people in it) or a farm boy, but his high school closed down for three weeks during potato harvest season to that the kids could work in the fields bringing the crop in. They still do this Down East, even though much of the harvesting work is now automated, and fewer kids take part. Each year it’s debated, but so far the tradition holds.
Maybe next fall, the farmers will be relying more on high schoolers and less on machines, as even the dullest high school student can probably figure out the difference between a potato and, say, a golf ball. Because who wants to find pieces of golf balls in their hash browns.
But a couple of folks did. And that’s why McCain potato growers (and stores like Wegmans) issued a recall.
The Food & Drug Administration said in its recall notice that customers found hard plastic and rubber pieces that appeared to have been “inadvertently harvested with potatoes.” Reached by phone Thursday, a Wegmans consumer associate said the potatoes McCain used were harvested by machines that did not know the difference between a golf ball and a potato. (Source: Boston Globe)
As I said, even the dullest Presque Isle High student is likely to be able to discern that a golf ball and a potato are two very different things. Even a non golfer, even a non cook.
It’s pretty simple: a golf ball is round and dimpled and white. A potato is roundish and not-dimpled and brown. And a golf ball is a lot harder than a potato. You could break your tooth, biting into a golf ball. If you could even bite into it. And as someone who sliced open her share of golf balls as a kid, I know that there’s nothing edible on the inside.
I’m sure that golf ball technology has changed over the years, but I’m sure that they remain inedible.
When I was a kid – and my father gave us golf balls with a hack slice in them – there was a tiny little ball at the center of a golf ball. And when you bounced that tiny little ball, it went off like a rocket. So, realistically, you only got to bounce it once, because it went so high and so fast, and was so tiny – maybe a quarter the size of the little red balls we used to play jacks – you could never find it once you got it. But getting to that tiny little ball was still worth the arduous effort o slicing and peeling the dimpled white “hide” of the golf ball, then slicing and unwinding the rubber thread that surrounded the tiny little center ball. If you sliced that thread the wrong way, it could really snap at you.
I never labored in the potato fields. Worcester didn’t have them. But I do know what concentrated hard work is when it comes to working on a golf ball.
So I know golf balls. And as an eater, I know potatoes.
So I know taht sometimes potatoes have eyes. And sometimes they have green spots. And sometimes they have black gooey rot. But they really don’t resemble a golf ball in the least.
McCain said there have been no reported injuries.
“We continue to investigate the nature of this event so we can assess the necessary actions required,” McCain said in a statement. “We are working cooperatively with the Food & Drug Administration and Wegmans to ensure the affected product is removed from the marketplace.”
Coal mining jobs may not be coming back. Uber drivers may be replaced by self-driving cars. All store checkouts may be automated.
But until they can find a machine that can figure out that a golf ball and a potato are two separate things, come fall harvest, the kids of Aroostook County will always have work.