As a kid, I was a picky eater. Holiday meals were torture for me, because, well, I didn’t really like any of the food. It did not help that my parents were determined to make us faithful members of the “clean plate club,” even when we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Potatoes were my salvation. NOT THE SWEET KIND. Those are nasty. Just plain, white potatoes–mashed, fried, boiled, baked–with butter and salt, or in handy “chip” form. No matter what culinary horrors everyone was unaccountably excited for (brussels sprouts? greens? weird jello things?), I would always be able to find potatoes.
As luck (and justice) would have it, my middle child was/is also a picky eater. And while I decided early on that dinner table battles were not going to be my thing, I did want to keep him alive. Again, potatoes to the rescue! Since he is now almost 6′ and will eat about 12 non-potato things, I count myself blessed.*
As I made mashed potatoes for dinner this evening, I wondered: “Are potatoes mentioned in the Canon?” Well, yes and no. Despite its position as a dietary staple, the lowly starchy white tuber doesn’t appear in Watson’s writings. But something similar does. One passage in the Canon mentions both “yams” and “sweet potatoes.” While neither is discussed in the 1861 Mrs. Beeton’s, Arthur Conan Doyle encountered the latter on his 1894 lecture tour to the United States in Canada. As he told a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Sweet potatoes were new to me. I rather like them.”
And it’s quite likely that, as a ship’s surgeon on the S.S. Mayumba in 1881, he tasted, or at least saw, yams as he traveled along the West African coast.
This leads us to today’s question:
Where are yams and sweet potatoes mentioned in the Canon? And why are they mentioned separately?
The winner will be drawn from the correct entries submitted, and for this display of canonical and botanical knowledge, will receive….
Three of Conan Doyle’s non-Holmesian works: The Adventures of Gerard, The White Company (which ACD loved with all of his romantic heart), and the Mystery of Cloomber. The last one is not in the absolute best shape, but is a good reading copy; the other two are still very pretty–and The White Company features gorgeous illustrations by N. C. Wyeth.
As usual, just send your answer to me via blog comment, or message me via the Well-Read Sherlockian FaceBook page. Here’s hoping that you’ve had a wonderful day!
As the card says, Congratulations to James McArthur! None of you ever guess, and we’ve had only a handful of incorrect answers in the entire eight years of the Giveaway, so you won’t be surprised to learn that he knew that Sherlock Holmes left with a “a slice a beef from the joint upon the sideboard [sandwiched] between two rounds of bread” and returned with “an old elastic-sided boot.” He left again shortly after and returned at about 2 am with the missing piece of the beryl coronet. BERY is, really, a sadder and more exciting story than Conan Doyle’s rushed version gets across. If you didn’t particularly like it when you read it the first time [raises hand], read it again, taking time to play out the action and consequences in your head. You might change your mind.
*Ok, I exaggerate. About 18 non-potato things.