A NEANDERTHAL’S CRAVING
By: Lauren Anderson
So, the other day I go to make myself a morning egg scramble.
It’s been a while since I’ve properly cooked a breakfast like this, summer being as busy as it has been. But I found myself with a few hours to spare, and I thought I would treat myself to something hearty, that I could take a long time to eat, while I caught up on Season 4 of Veronica Mars.
Eggs of course, breakfast sausage, leftover green peppers from my friend’s house, and what else what else? A-ha! Potatoes. Yum yummy yum yum.
I knew I had a bag of those guys laying around. For a self-proclaimed non-cook, potatoes always make my staples list. On days where I need the extra powpowpower– or just when I’m feeling hungry, potato comes out to lend a helping hand. And it never fails to nourish me.
Besides, I love knowing they’re being cooked in the best oil or butter/ghee I can find, cause again– I may not be the best cook– but I did learn to feed myself with nutrition dense ingredients.
I hear my nutritionist in my head still. “Keep it simple. Don’t overthink it.” So, often when I cook for myself, I still usually choose a nice piece of meat, and a veg that I only let myself buy if I promise to make it before it goes bad. (I’m looking at you, asparagus.)
And I still believe in the mighty potato, especially after learning about macros etc. Say what you want about the low carb revolution, but I think the potato deserves a chance.
They are the perfect thing to boost energy after a workout, and help me stay full. And the simple carbs are good for helping rebuild muscles.
Let’s face it, if potatoes can help entire races of people survive generation after generation, then I will never discount the hearty tuber. There is something to be said for ancient veggies.
My mom recently did her 23 and Me, and she found out that she had a waaaaaay above average amount of Neanderthal DNA. She was practically giggling when she told me.
I asked her why she was so delighted by this news, and she said,
“I just love knowing that I am made up of something so ancient. That part of what makes up my blood and my body were around 52,000 years ago. That I carry within me all that history, and all that time. Makes sense really, why I’ve always felt older than I am. ((she laughs) It makes me feel connected.”
When she said this, I teared up a little. I had never thought about it that way.
So what does that have to do with potatoes or your morning scramble?
Well– I’m getting to that!
I cut up the veggies and get the sausage etc, out of the fridge. Then I go into my closet where I keep the potatoes, and when I pull them out– I’m shocked at what they look like.
No longer are they the medium-sized red potatoes I bought at my local grocery store. No sir! They morphed in the night into alien renegades set to overthrow the government.
(Although, with the state of our current government… I’m pretty sure these potatoes could a better job. ZING! At the very least, I know they’d be less racist. Ahem.)
Still…What the hell?
I was as delighted as I was disgusted. This is not the first time I’ve seen a spud sprout. In fact, it’s one of my favorite fun facts about the potato.
They don’t need dirt to sprout and begin trying to grow anew. They just need bearable dark and moist conditions– and voila! They start to covert the starch into limbs and BAM. Life finds a way.
With the past week of super humidity– boy did they ever. These babies were a few days from growing legs and tap-dancing their way to freedom.
I gingerly took them out of the bag. They smell like rich earth and dirt. And something strange happened. My mouth started to water. How could I possibly want to consume these gnarly monsters?
But I did. The most likely explanation is that my body was craving the minerals. I had a deep desire to bite into the ugly little guys.
I hope you’re not squiddgy about potatoes when they do this.
Read anywhere– As long as they’re still firm, all you have to do is break off the sprouted bits and proceed at usual. The potatoes are fine to eat.
But I couldn’t help but giggle to myself. These spuds looked tough. And ancient. And suddenly I found myself craving the potatoes for a different reason. I was craving their heartiness.
I wanted to consume their indomitable spirit.
Kind of like cutting out the heart of your enemies and consuming their life force. I wanted to eat these potatoes because I wanted to feel as resilient and vigorous as they seemed to be.
Weird? Maybe. But it’s true.
Think about it. We say yay or nay to foods for any number of reasons. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again– food serves many functions.
And sometimes I eat for nutrition, and sometimes I eat for comfort. Sometimes it’s for celebration. Being able to listen to my body and what it’s saying to me, is the single most powerful tool I’ve cultivated to free me from my food-guilt prison.
And I do not take it lightly.
But this craving was new. And it was worth noting.
I wanted to eat “the spirit of” the potato. I wanted to eat what I felt the potato was representing in that moment in time. Which was power and robustness and…resilience maybe?
Interesting to say the least. Or maybe it’s just me?
I turned off my stove, and took a brief detour from my morning scramble to do a little research on the mighty potato.
So if my mom has Neanderthal in her, then chances are I do too, unless there’s something my mom is not telling me. But I quickly found out that potatoes were not around during the Neanderthal’s time.
Turns out, the potato is “newer” than I thought. Meaning it’s only about 5-10 thousand years old. Still old, and definitely hearty– but It’s not considered an ancient food. Hmmmmmm.
And it’s origins are in the Americas, so chances are, it didn’t make it to Europe or anywhere near there until after export from the Americas was a more regular thing! Learning!
WOW. So what exactly did Europeans eat before the potato?! Well, lots of stuff.
(Take that stereotypes!)
But the popularity of the potato is exactly linked to it’s robustness, and when places like Ireland discovered it’s ability to grow in less than ideal conditions– it became more than a fan favorite. It became a means to survive.
And the fact that it’s a nightshade that likes the dark and the wet, proved that it could sustain in colder climates. Which was a very welcome thing indeed. When winter is long and the soil is rocky etc.
So Europe and the rest of that side of the world nabbed the potato, and the rest is history. And to this day the potato is the 4th largest worldwide crop. Just under corn, wheat and rice. CRAZY.
* * *
I was having a moment of pure love for the potato. Feeling very grateful for how it has fed people for so many years. And even though it is not as ancient as my Neanderthal DNA, it is old. And connected.
As I resumed making my scramble that morning, I couldn’t help but think about my craving. I will not overlook the metaphysical benefits these potatoes had on me.
I have been feeling really pulled-thin lately. More tired and scattered and spent than normal. Simply due to busy-ness.
So the fact that I was making myself a hearty breakfast with a gnarly and substantive veggies like the potato, felt like some real self care. It was almost ritualistic. A restoring of the body, by feeding it with nutrition and intention.
I used that food and those potatoes to feed my spirit. And let me say, for the record, that it worked. The rest of the day I felt grounded and renewed. I felt full of energy, and full of new hope.
It’s as if I too, sprouted to grow anew in less that perfect conditions.
And it meant something to me.
Nutrition and why I choose to eat what I do, when I do, will continue to be a lifelong learning curve.
I can tell you, I will be on the lookout for this new type of craving.
Because I think there might be something to it.
Even if it’s as small and insignificant as why I wanted to eat potatoes in the morning.
Especially for a person like me who is always searching for a deeper meaning to EVERYTHING.
I don’t know why I do this, but maybe we can just chalk it up to my Neanderthal DNA.