In which I end up green about the gills.

To be printed 25/03/10.

Hands up who knew you couldn’t eat green potatoes? Oh right, all of you. Marvellous. But where were all of you last Friday, when I was standing over a packet of peaky-looking spuds saying, “Meh, I’m sure it’ll be fine”? Had one of you piped up, even just with some mild doubt, even just with a “green potatoes, Lauren? Does that SOUND like a delicious dinner?” then you could have saved me a week of not-so delicious debilitating nausea. I hope you feel suitably guilty.

I’ve always had a laissez-faire attitude towards food safety. Partly under a mistaken belief that it makes me seem endearingly low-maintenance, but mainly because when given the choice of eating food or not eating food, I will always choose eating it. Whenever I hear a fact that widens my scope for risky food consumption, however suspect the source, I take it into my heart and cherish it. The time someone told me “sell-by dates are just a ploy by the government to make us eat more food” was a particular high. The day I learned the 3-second rule* was a life changer.

And green potatoes I honestly thought were an old wives’ tale, like crusts making your hair curl or Alan Titchmarsh being attractive. I was the kid at school who everyone would give their green crisps to eat, like a playground sideshow act, and as far as I can remember it never did me any harm. After all, green is the colour of health. For all I could see, green potatoes might count as one of my five a day, like spinach or something. My logic went: green bananas are nice. Greenness is a good attribute. Think of Green Onions by Booker T and the Mgs – good song. No food poisoning in that track (yes it’s instrumental, but hush).

I also looked to a literary authority for advice – namely, Dr Seuss, whose classic “Green Eggs and Ham” I could only see as endorsement of my off-colour dinner. Eggs are, after all, even less likely to be green than potatoes. They’re not even vegetables. But Sam I Am likes them, and from what I can remember he doesn’t die at the end of the book. So I ate them.

To cut a long article short (and skip over a lot of digestive discomfort), they were not a success. But worse than the food poisoning was the fact that everybody I mentioned it to in the subsequent week has gone “Ohmigod, green potatoes? They’re poisonous!” as though I should have known all along. Did I miss that biology lesson? Is it on a poster in doctor’s surgeries, next to the one on meningitis rash?

Now I’m worried about all the other food safety ‘myths’ that might turn out to be true. Does this mean I can no longer eat bendy parsnips? Or reheated rice? Does burnt toast really give you cancer? Unless the Cat in the Hat has an answer, I may never be able to eat again.

*I have it on good authority that in some parts of the country the 3-second rule becomes the 30-SECOND RULE. That’s enough time to perform a short ritual dance around the floor food in preparation, or maybe dump some ketchup on the floor to accompany it. If ever there was a reason to move North, I think that may be it.