Read the runners up from the ELLE Writing Competition

Potato by Liz Wride

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Potatoes had been my friend for years: crisps every break-time, fries at every fast-food-based birthday, mountains of mash for Monday night’s tea.

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It didn’t stop when I went to university, either. The humble spud had then come of age. It partied with me in the clubs (a vodka alcopop in a cold bottle), and waited with me for the next taxi (cheesy chips in curry sauce).

I thought we’d be together forever – after all, what’s a wedding day without Potato Dauphinoise? I’d pictured a starchy future, where my would-be children left their mark with Maris-Piper-print masterpieces, displayed proudly on the fridge door.

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It wasn’t to be. 

One Summer’s day, our relationship ended. It was the foodie equivalent of being dumped via text message. The smell of vinegar had lured me to the local fish and chip shop. I emerged with the usual cone of chips: a cornucopia of starch and salt. I bit through the fried exterior, and the fluffy white centre erupted. They were almost too hot to eat. Almost. I blew on them and devoured them, one after the other. I could feel the beady eyes of passing seagulls, stalking me. You couldn’t blame them, really. A boisterous bird benefitted from a slightly burnt chip, which I bunged begrudgingly in its direction.

Had I known I’d never eat chips again, I would have kept every last morsel for myself.

That night, there was a roaring row – between potato and my epidermis. My body could no longer tolerate the thing I’d once loved. A rash blazed across the surface of my skin like wildfire, antihistamine doing little to extinguish it as the liquid slipped down my throat. Hours later, as the medicine took effect and my skin was no longer angry – I realised we could never be together again. We’d keep having the same fight, time and time again. 

I’d have to sever all ties.

So I did.

That was seven years ago.

Now, sweet potatoes are my best friend. They come from a different food family, they are a better class of vegetable. We don’t stay up, battling into the small hours, although I know, in my heart of hearts, they are a substitute: the rebound romance of the root vegetable world. I still dream of crispy seasoned fries that sit in little fast-food packets. My subconscious puts on banquets as I sleep: the creamy top of a Sheppard’s pie, ploughed with a fork; home-made crisps fried until golden…but things soon turn nightmarish. Placed in front of me are Jacket potatoes fresh from the bonfire, but these ones whisper: trick or treat.

When I wake, I check the epi-pen is in my handbag. 

It’s the only thing that could help me, should I get together with potatoes again. But there’s a good side, too. When I walk along the seafront, the seagulls never bother me.

Words by Liz Wride

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