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Al Batt: Potatoes, popcorn and a rabbit walk into a story

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

“I don’t have enough rabbits.”

I couldn’t muster any pity for the man who said that. “I have your share,” I replied. Those rascally rabbits had finished their egg-hiding duties at Easter and were awaiting the appearance of the garden. Carrot nibblers are an important part of our culture.

Bugs Bunny, originally voiced by Mel Blanc, is known for his starring roles in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated films. A version of his character first appeared in the Warner Brothers cartoon “Porky’s Hare Hunt” in 1938 and the definitive incarnation of Bugs Bunny debuted in Tex Avery’s Oscar-nominated film “A Wild Hare” in 1940. Bugs spends his time tormenting Elmer Fudd and his catchphrase is “Eh, what’s up, doc?”

Br’er Rabbit (derived from Brother Rabbit) is an African-American folk figure who appeared in a collection of appropriated folktales called “Uncle Remus.” In one story, Br’er Rabbit leaves his briar patch and is caught in Br’er Fox’s trap, but escapes by tricking Br’er Bear into switching places by convincing him it was a job that paid a dollar a minute. He heads back to his briar patch as Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox fight.

The Energizer Bunny hopped into the spotlight in 1989 in a commercial where he drummed away while wearing flip-flops and sunglasses as it outlasted toys powered by other batteries. Peter Cottontail hopped down the bunny trail.

The man told me the lack of live bunnies bothered him so much he’d turned into a wind-up cymbal monkey that had eaten an entire bag of kettle corn. I don’t crave kettle corn. My palate isn’t an educated one. Caramel corn isn’t bad. I have some every couple of years and enjoy popcorn at the movies where I eat it under the cover of darkness while wearing earplugs to soften the loudness of a movie and diminish the noise of others eating popcorn. I’ll eat it at an occasional athletic event and I enjoy a box from Merrill’s Popcorn stand at a fair.

I’ve raised both potatoes and popcorn. Mr. T said, “I pity the fool who doesn’t enjoy a potato.” That was truncated to fit onto coffee mugs. If I moped around the kitchen wanting something to eat, my mother told me to take a cold potato and wait. A cold potato is OK, but there’s a reason that it’s not featured on the menu at McDonald’s. Planting potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day for a successful harvest is rooted in tradition. I’ve raised russet, red, white, yellow and blue/purple taters. In my boyhood home, meals had a predictable quality, they each had meat and potatoes.

Maybe that’s why I prefer potato chips over popcorn. I’ve spent a lot of time in hotel rooms with an unpleasant smell of microwaved popcorn for company without getting a chance to thank the previous guest for leaving it for me. I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like, as I enjoy mashed, baked, fried, scalloped, hash browns, bread, salad, tater tots and french fries. Chips would be near the bottom of my potato preference. A good number of years ago, I was in West Malling in the county of Kent (The Garden of England) when I encountered flavored crisps (chips are crisps and french fries are chips in the U.K.) including cheese & onion, prawn cocktail, beef & onion, Worcester sauce and tomato ketchup. It was a web of deceit. They were potato chips in disguise. I was disappointed my fish and chips didn’t come in an old newspaper. Something about it being an unhealthy practice. I don’t favor flavored potato chips or those shoestring things in a can.

When it’s crunch time, are you chippy or corny? There are arguments for both.

It was a potato famine, not a popcorn famine. Stringing potato chips for the Christmas tree is a bad idea. People get chips on their shoulders, not popcorn. Pouring butter on potato chips isn’t a good idea. Popcorn bags are full. Potato chip bags are not. That’s because eating a full one might kill you. Popcorn sticks in your teeth months after you’ve last eaten popcorn. There are popcorn chips. I’ve waited in line for forever and a day to buy my mother-in-law chocolate-covered potato chips. I wouldn’t do that for chocolate-covered popcorn.

Both popcorn and potato chips are better than cheese puffs. When you eat cheese puffs, you must wait for the orange dust to settle before inhaling.

I enjoy raising potatoes and popcorn.

The rabbits I know don’t eat either.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday in the Tribune.