The saga of the dead potato

I can’t remember the last time I had a salad. A giant sized portion of leafy greens sprinkled with a rainbow of options. Was it in San Diego? No, we had fried chicken. Was it in Mexico? No, I’m sure all I ate were tacos. I can’t remember because I didn’t make it memorable….because I didn’t know it would be my last. See, we’ve been traveling through specs of rock and coral thousands of miles away from the nearest anything, and in these remote lands local produce is scarce. And expensive. In Tahiti, a bell pepper cost $9 (so did a load of laundry). In Nuie a small head of broccoli cost $12. We no longer eat broccoli.

Long gone are the days of expansive aisles of fresh fruits and vegetables. Most, if not all, food products are imported. In Tahiti and neighboring Societies, most items seem to come from France, Chile, the US or New Zealand. Nuie’s only grocery store seemed to be stocked with items exclusively from New Zealand. Options are scant, refrigerated and pricy. Every time we can get our hands on something reasonable, we do. Although some families do grow their own, and farmers markets are held before sunrise one day a week in a few islands, most of the vegetables have been through a lot before they get to the store.

Why am I telling you this? Because we miss copious amounts of fresh produce. And although potatoes are supposed to last for a long time (and the ones we purchased in Mexico did) I should have known better. I should have known how to project the life span of a bag of Bora Boran potatoes.

In defense of root vegetables everywhere, this bag took a beating. Our passage from Bora Bora to Nuie was bumpy. The produce sling (hammock) we have aboard was banging over and over against the hull and tired of hearing the never ending thumping noise we took the bag of potatoes and tossed it into one of our lockers. A few days later, now safely moored in the calm waters of Alofi bay, we…completely forgot about the bag of potatoes. A few days after that, an unrecognizable smell overtook our cabin. We could not figure out where it was coming from. And then we did. When we opened a small inconspicuous cabinet door in a forgotten corner we were overcome by the smell of nastiness. They say that discovering a bad egg is no mystery- the smell is atrocious. So was this. Dead potato smells like a dead animal. It penetrates your soul, murders your inner child and takes away your willingness to breath.

We immediately removed the bag (Immediately? Really? It took us a week.) and sponged down the fermented potato juice with copious amounts of white vinegar, water and tea tree oil. That went over like a mere suggestion. We removed the cushions and any wood panel in the vicinity and discovered that the liquid had run down between the cabinet and fiberglass hull of the boat. Baking soda, white vinegar, fresh water, bleach, wood cleaner, scrubbing, soaking, sponging, rinsing, flushing, crying. It turned into an all day project. Sailing = doing boat work in exotic locations. Repairing sails, changing fuel filters, cleaning the hull, and when you are not careful, scrubbing away dead potato.

Is there a happy ending to this story?

I think so. The smell is mostly gone. Except now we no longer eat potatoes.