Episode #171 — Idaho Potato Museum

We don’t want to date ourselves, but we remember where we were in the early 90s when Vice President Dan Quayle was taken down by a potato. If you don’t remember it, look it up. Except wait, it’s not the 90s anymore — Google it. Also, we lied. We’d absolutely take the opportunity to each date our own selves. Luke wouldn’t be disappointed in his date’s poor choices regarding which movie to watch (“Ernest Scared Stupid”) and Heidi would always get to have Thai food when going out. Apple TV, have we got a show concept for you!

Anyway, who, except Dan Quayle, doesn’t love potatoes? Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and we can think of at least ten ways, off the tops of our heads, to prepare them. You might even say potatoes are at the root of what makes holiday dinners delicious. That’s a freebie dad joke to use when the conversation lulls at the Thanksgiving table or to cut off Uncle Lou when he starts sharing conspiracy theories he’s read on the interwebs. But if he shouts about how potatoes are harvested by mole people who seek to use the tubers for mind control, you’ll think to yourself, “Thank Ore-Ida I listed to Why? The Podcast this week. Now I can counter Lou’s potassium lies with fiber-filled facts.” This week we spoke with Tish Dahmen, the executive director of the Idaho Potato Museum — an institution dedicated to all things spud.

The museum is in Blackfoot, Idaho, in an area where people know a thing or two about growing potatoes. Tish shared with us what the museum’s mission is, how many visitors it receives a year, and what it is about Idaho that makes it the perfect place for potato farming. (Sandy, volcanic soil and massive aquifers are involved, but that’s all we’re saying.) We also talked about how and why the Idaho Potato Museum was founded in the first place. Since our life goals involve learning about every single thing we possibly can, and since our listeners share those goals, it’s pretty clear to us why a potato museum in Idaho was an obvious choice. But the Blackfoot locals didn’t necessarily think people outside their town would have any interest in traveling to a potato museum. Thank goodness they got over their hesitations, or we all wouldn’t have the chance to learn all we can about the potato, pose next to a giant baked one for a photo op, or try potato ice cream.

It does make you wonder, though, what other potentially great museums we’re missing out on because locals think we won’t care. Seriously, doesn’t anyone remember “Field of Dreams”? If you build a museum dedicated to the history of whoopie pies, we will come. Have a large group of people in your town that are “Quantum Leap” fetishists? Please dedicate an entire museum, or at least a decently sized room, to it because we have questions. And with those examples out there, a potato museum seems less outlandish by the minute.

If you want to learn about the world’s largest potato crisp (and how that’s different than a chip), where the potato originated, how that vegetable played a role in history, and whether it’s poisonous, or if you just want to have a really good baked potato, head to Idaho and visit the museum. And if you’re not quite ready to visit the Gem State, the Idaho Potato Museum has a website and Facebook page that will hold you until you can plan a trip. In the meantime, enjoy our interview with Tish and get ready to have a quick comeback for Uncle Lou when he claims to know the secret behind dehydrating potatoes. You can correct him faster than a sixth grader in 1992 at a mock spelling bee in New Jersey.   

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