Potatoes: Meridell's Greatest Treasure
In celebration of the anniversary of the discovery of Meridell, I felt that the greatest tribute I could pay was to write about what is, to my mind, the single most important, valuable, and culturally significant item to ever be produced in Meridell. Restockable in the Merifoods Shop, this item is a cornerstone of the Meridellian economy and can be found all throughout Neopia in various forms. I am speaking, of course, about the potato.
Though there is no single item on Neopets simply called "Potato," the Raw Potato is the closest approximation to what we picture when we hear the word. Its description says "It can be eaten, thrown, or erm... well, a potato doesn't have that many uses..." Descriptions like this are a disservice to the potato. Not only are eating and throwing too important to be waved away with such a dismissive statement, but the potato does in fact have several more uses besides eating and throwing. Many of these uses are documented here in Neopia, in various items that feature potatoes in unconventional roles. Potatoes, it seems, can be extremely versatile objects if you can think creatively. (Author's note: I assume no liability for any injuries sustained while messing about with potatoes. Each and every one of the activities listed here could potentially cause harm to the user. Please use caution when dealing with potatoes.)
Let's start with the uses that the Raw Potato's description managed to think up. Potatoes, as a food item, can and should be eaten as part of a balanced diet. However, there's no need to minimize the importance of eating this Neopian staple. Though they originated in Meridell, the potato has migrated to all corners of the Neopian globe, and is featured in dishes hailing from Altador, Neovia, Krawk Island, and everywhere in between. If you're relaxing in the Lost Desert and have a craving, you can order up a serving of Pyramid Potato Skins. Assuming you don't mind the usual Haunted Woods fare, there are Mashed Eye Potatoes ready and waiting. Despite their humble beginnings in the fields of Meridell, potatoes have managed a very impressive migration around the world, and their utility in food-making is recognized and appreciated by cultures across Neopia.
Throwing, the other use listed in the Raw Potato's description, is a surprisingly uncommon use for potatoes in Neopia. I would like to preface this section of the article by stating how disappointed I am that there are not more potato-based weapons in Neopia. With that said, the most obvious example I can find of a potato specifically intended for throwing is the Battle Potato. The Battle Potato was released exclusively as a Lenny Conundrum prize, meaning that there are (at most) 250 in existence today. With that said, the description assures us that this will do what we hope it will: "This is sure to hurt if you throw it at somebody! Limited use." Theoretically, any potato would be appropriate for throwing, and all potatoes would be fairly likely to injure, but most Neopian potatoes are simply not designed for the job like the Battle Potato.
Eating potatoes is obvious. A much more inventive use, which is currently in practice in parts of Neopia, is using potatoes to make drinkable items (not all of which are drinks). Molten Morsels, located in Moltara, has two different potato-based drinks available to anyone brave enough to sample them. The Potato Shake and the Sweet Potato Fizzy Drink are atypical but presumably delicious alternatives to standard milkshakes and Neocola. The description of the Sweet Potato Fizzy Drink (which implies that the soda is in fact made from potatoes and not sweet potatoes) says "Of all potato fizzy drinks, this is the sweetest of all," implying that there are even more potato drinks still to be released to the general public for consumption. But not all drinkable potato concoctions are food items. One, the Potato Potion, is a rare elixir hailing from the potato's homeland of Meridell. Available at Kayla's Potion Shop, those who drink this potion should be wary: if you use this potion on your pet, you may end up with a newly morphed brown Kiko!
Knowledgeable Neopians will have expected this heading as soon as I mentioned potatoes. In Meridell there are two entire games devoted to the art of potato counting. The original Potato Counter and its sequel, Extreme Potato Counter, are both fairly popular pastimes in Meridell. In both games, the object is to count the potatoes on the screen before you within a certain amount of time. The main difference between the two is that the potatoes in Potato Counter are static objects, while the potatoes in Extreme Potato Counter rapidly fly across the screen (tying in neatly with "throwing," when you think about it). Potato Counter is good for passing a little bit of time and earning a few neopoints, and if you count over 200 in Extreme Potato Counter you will be rewarded with a lovely Neoboard avatar! Trust Meridell to find creative uses for ubiquitous items that would otherwise rot into a pile of Mouldy Potatoes.
Though potato counting is potentially a form of play, depending on how much you are enjoying yourself, there are several other ways to play with potatoes or potato-based products in Neopia. If you're interested in a round of Cheeseroller, why not take a turn with the Potato Cheese? I cannot guarantee the efficiency of this cheese, or potato, or whatever it is, when it comes to rolling down hills, but why not give it a go? If Cheeseroller isn't your style, there is also a lovely Potato Yo-Yo that can entertain for hours on end. Younger Neopians may prefer to play with the Potato Counter Usuki set, which has "everything you need to be a prime potato counter." This set is an inexpensive way to add a little bit of potato-themed fun to your life.
6. Making Art
If the Raw Potato could not have even guessed at some of the previous entries, it would be completely blown away at this suggestion. Potatoes are already being used as raw materials for some artistic endeavors in Neopia. Even the youngest Neopian is familiar with the practice of sculpting your pile of mashed potatoes into volcanoes at dinnertime, and that's only just beginning to scratch the surface. There are, in fact, two sculptures available for your Neogarden that are made entirely from mashed potatoes (Mashed Potato Fort and Mashed Potato Man), if that's the type of decor that interests you, and both of these plainly require far more effort and skill than a simple gravy volcano. There's also the King Skarl Mashed Potato Tribute to consider. What could be more appropriate than celebrating Meridell's leader with a likeness of him made from one of Meridell's most important food products? Even more challenging to create is the Ixi-Like Potato Pile, which appears to use uncooked potatoes to form the approximate shape of an Ixi. If mashed potatoes are a hard medium to work in, imagine the craft that must have gone into working with raw potatoes, which are not known for being particularly malleable.
Alton, the farmer who works the original Potato Counter game, said "There's an awful lot you can do with a potato." The Raw Potato's description is in direct conflict with someone who arguably knows better. Alton's idea of versatility is the multitude of ways potatoes can be prepared to make delicious, delicious food. Food items are only a small part of the array of things for which potatoes can be used, but food items are extremely important in their own right. Most of the other uses for potatoes are confined to Meridellian ingenuity, but as a food item, the potato has invaded all of Neopia and found a home in the stomachs of its citizens everywhere. It may not be as coveted as the Draik egg, but the potato has arguably had a far greater effect on Neopia than the Draik egg could ever hope to achieve.
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I recommend you start out your day by playing a quick game of Cheeseroller... you're bound to get a bit messy, but this is one of the oldest traditions in Neopia!