Mark Yakich

A Brief History of Patriotism

5000 BCE It is around this time that the potato is first cultivated by the ancient peoples of the Andes.
476-1000 CE At some point during the Dark Ages, it is believed that a band of potatoes makes its way across the Bering Strait, but this remains only a hypothesis.
1100-1500 The Incas grow, eat, and worship the potato, and often bury it with their dead.
1536 The first European to see a potato is Spanish conquistador Pedro de Cieza de Léon. He promptly conquers it.
1565 Another Spanish conquistador, christened Padre de las Patatas, takes the potato back to Spain in lieu of the gold he did not find.
1589 The Italians discover that the potato is part of the nightshade family, related to tobacco and tomatoes. In this same year, a Florentine noblewoman discovers gnocchi between her legs one morning.
1604 Shakespeare invents mashed potatoes, potato pancakes, twice-baked potatoes, thrice-baked potatoes, and very burnt potatoes.
1605 In France the potato is outlawed for fear that is causes leprosy, syphilis, and rampant sexuality.
1620-1750 [Here, unfortunately, there is a small, inexplicable lacuna in the research.]
1755 Samuel Johnson includes the word "tater" in his dictionary.
1778 In a war between Prussians and Hapsburgs neither side is able to win on the battlefield, so both try to starve out the other by stealing and eating the enemy's stockpile of potatoes.
1823 The Belgians invent French fries.
1845 Potato crop failure in Ireland, one million people starve to death. The Irish become famous.
1853 Out of spite for an insolent customer, half-Native American, half-African American chef George Crum invents the potato chip. His creation becomes exceptionally popular, but he forgets to patent it.
1871 The Idaho Potato is invented in Massachusetts.
1899 During the Alaskan Klondike gold rush, miners discover that potatoes are high in vitamin C and are thus worth their weight in gold. A pound of potatoes is traded for a pound of gold.
1926 Ms. Laura Scudder invents the paper bag in which to put potato chips.
1944 Unwilling to take the abuse any longer, Anne Frank writes of her odium of potatoes.
1955 The first baked potato to be microwaved is microwaved by the Raytheon Corporation.
1968 The Canadians invent instant potato spuds.
1972 The International Potato Center (CIP) is established in Lima, Peru, with the mission to help developing nations increase potato production and consumption.
1989 A small group of academics try to reclaim the potato for itself and begin calling it the "super tuber," but this never really catches on.
1994 Potato consumption is on the rise in most parts of the world. China leads all nations by producing 40 million metric tons, followed by Russia (34 million), Poland (23 million), the United States (21 million), Ukraine (16 million), and India (15 million). Average annual per capita consumption is reported to be highest in certain highland regions of Rwanda (153 kg).
2001 Americans eat 19% of their meals in automobiles, and each automobile weighs, on average, 2,600 lbs.
2006 Although the potato becomes a prime candidate for farming in outer space, the results of a nationwide poll suggest that most people believe the potato is too modest to accept.
2008 Still seeking hope after decades of multilingual discourse, the United Nations names this year as the International Year of the Potato (IYP).