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Group's director stuck on spuds

MOSES LAKE -- Boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, fried, mashed, marinated, roasted and smashed.

There are at least nine ways to prepare a potato.

And Chris Voigt has tried them all in the last 3 1/2 weeks. Now he's got five more weeks to go.

Voigt, executive director of the Washington Potato Commission, is fighting what he sees as potato bashing by eating nothing but potatoes for 60 days to prove they're healthy food.

It isn't easy.

"Tuesday was a rough day for me," he said. "I really, really wanted a pickle."

So Voigt put a potato to soak in pickle juice. His wife made ice cream from potatoes last weekend to give him some variety.

The Moses Lake resident said he thought potatoes were getting a bad rap for supposedly being unhealthy and came up with an inspiration to prove they're not.

"I think it was just that I woke up one morning this summer feeling beaten up," he said.

Recently, the Institute of Medicine recommended the federal government ban participants in the Women, Infants and Children program from buying potatoes. The WIC program helps needy parents buy groceries, and officials said the move was intended to encourage participants to buy a greater variety of vegetables.

The institute also suggested not serving as many potatoes in the federal school lunch program, which subsidizes lunches and breakfasts for approximately 32 million low-income children around the country.

Although Voigt's move may seem dramatic, it has gotten him a lot of attention.

His wife, Stephanie, said she was surprised when she first heard her husband's idea.

"I thought he was crazy," she said. "Crazy, but brilliant."

So far, the diet has harvested Voigt national media coverage. And a few others also have stepped up to the dinner plate in support of spuds.

Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno, who counts the Washington Potato Commission among his sponsors, has contributed some video for the website. And humor columnist Dave Barry posed for a picture with Voigt and some potatoes.

Gov. Christine Gregoire also posted a video throwing her support behind Voigt.

"You'll prove you can eat potatoes without looking like one," the governor joked.

The project's Facebook page had nearly 1,700 friends as of Monday.

When asked, Stephanie didn't hesitate before describing her husband of 10 years as "usually odd." But she said he hasn't taken things to this level before.

She and the couple's two kids haven't joined Voigt in his all-spuds diet campaign. After all, 60 days is a long stretch on a one-item diet.

Voigt said he decided to go on an all-potato diet beginning Oct. 1 for a full two months because, "Anyone can do anything for 30 days."

But, he admitted, "Now I'm regretting that decision."

Stephanie is already planning his breakfast on the 61st day.

"I'm guessing it won't include hash browns," she said.

* Cathy Kessinger: 509-582-1535; ckessinger@tricityherald.com

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