Tator tot terror

Just before school ended for the year, Junior came to me and asked if we could talk. Now, when a 9-year-old approaches a parent and asks for a talk – that parent thinks one thing.

Unless it’s Junior. With Junior, he could be requesting a private talk for any number of subjects ranging from “Where Do Babies Come From” to “How Did God Get His Powers and Can I Have Some Too?”

So I sat Junior down on the couch and waited. And he looked at me with his big, solemn brown eyes and said, “Mom, I had these little things for lunch, and they were hash browns in the shape of cylinders.” And before I could react, he said, “And I want to eat them everyday. I love them. Especially with ketchup.”

On the one hand, I was so happy. No birds and bees discussion today. No pesky explanation about God and how mere mortals could never be omnipotent. And, best of all, no big dictionary discussion about the meaning of omnipotent.

And if that wasn’t enough – Junior had actually remembered one of the shapes he learned at school, and he’d used it in a sentence. How cool is that? I’ve never remembered one of the shapes I learned in school and used it in a sentence.

On the other hand, he was describing a tator tot. Now, I have forbidden tator tots in my home. Truthfully, I am afraid of tator tots. That’s right. I’m frightened. I’m scared silly of tiny little globs of potato. And I admit it.

Look, in the first place, tator tots aren’t natural. I mean, you don’t just wander out to the veggie patch and pick little potato cylinders off the tator tot bush, do you? And you don’t hear of families trekking out to tator tot forests for vacation, right? No. The truth is – and I can’t stress this enough – tator tots are not found in nature.

In fact, I believe that tator tots are evil little fat cylinders that wait for me to eat them, and then they attach themselves directly to my butt, which expands to the size of the Goodyear blimp after I consume just one teeny, tiny, tator tot. Which, frankly, is difficult to do, since tator tots contain an instant-addiction enzyme that makes it impossible for anyone, and I mean anyone, to eat only one tator tot.

That’s right. tator tots are addictive. In fact, there are tator tot addicts all across America. And they are serious about their tots, let me tell you. They have heated discussions over recipes. They have festivals. Art exhibits. Why, hundreds have even written songs praising their favorite little potato, for pete’s sake.

That’s right. They have songs about tator tots. My personal favorite begins “O tator tot, O tator tot, how golden are your cylinders!” Can you just imagine an entire chorus of tator tot worshippers singing that at a festival?

And the recipes – oh, the recipes. People deep in the throes of potato addiction discuss the approximately 4 billion ways to make tator Tot Casserole, known in some parts of the Midwest as Hot Dish. Maybe it’s just me – a tator tot phobic – but each recipe seems to consist of smooshing a mystery meat into a 9×13 dish, smothering it in gravy or mushroom soup and then topping the whole thing off with a bunch of tator tots. And, if your arteries aren’t clogged enough, you can finish dinner off with dessert – Pineapple Cranberry tator Tot Pudding.

And, as with anything addictive, there are the more sophisticated tator tot addicts. The ones who are sitting in their pristine living rooms right this minute, trying to decide whether they should attend the King Tut Exhibit of 5,000-year-old artifacts that haven’t been seen in the United States in 30 years or whether they should just go downtown to the Tator Tot Art Expo so they can buy another tator tot sculpture for their collection.

So you can see why I’m afraid. Look, Junior has discovered the tator tot. And school is out for summer. And that means that someday, in the not-too-distant future, I will break down and make Tator Tot Casserole. But I swear to you, I will not sing the tator tot song while I cook.

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