The Marjorie E. Peale Prize

Thomas Johnson

 

Three Hot Potatoes

Winter’s coming.  Need to get yourself

down to one of the islands—James or Johns—

to see if you can find yourself a roadside

stand in front of a potato bank where you

can buy yourself a couple of pounds for cold-

weather cooking.  “Hoppin John” Martin

in his LOWCOUNTRY COOKING says he uses

sweets in breads and soups and orange shells.

You can steal his idea of mashing whites

and sweets together to eat with meat on a frosty

night.  Says the Porto Rico sweet potato

is a Lowcountry favorite, with its rust-colored

jacket and reddish orange flesh.


Those are colors Van Gogh might have used,

along with yellow and black and blue, if he

had painted potato eaters in his later years.

If in a thrift or junk shop you should come across

one of his early drawings of a poor family

in the Borinage at table praying

over their modest meal, pick it up.

Potatoes saved their lives. You might save

yours by selling the work for a hot million.


After buying your sack of potatoes, go back

into Charleston and try to find the whereabouts

of Alfred Hutty’s watercolor “The Potato Pickers.”

Done in a black and yellowish wash, this study

depicts three women bending to the task,

two others standing up in consultation

with a man (the foreman?) under a moss-draped oak.

It’s a lot more than cold potatoes.

 

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