A weekend of curious potato-related convergences. First, I was in a used bookstore in Yucca Valley and saw a copy of The Potato Book by Myrna Davis. I was tempted but resisted because I thought it was too expensive, though I did stand in the store and read the (very short) foreword by Truman Capote. Capote, by his own account, was not a great lover of potatoes unless they came baked, with sour cream and caviar, and unless he had a glass of Russian vodka in his hand; none of which would have been especially hard for him to arrange, you’d think.
But there’s a story told by John Richardson about the difficulty Capote once had finding baked potatoes for his lover, whom Richardson names “Jimmy N”. The lover was a married, “nice, dim” refrigerator repairman from Palm Springs, enticed away from home, wife and job by Capote, then paraded around to Capote’s fancy friends, usually with disastrous consequences.
Richardson (that's him on the right above) entertained Jimmy N and Truman in Venice and found Jimmy, “No problem really, except for constant moans about the lack of air conditioning, comics, TV, above all baked potatoes. Every meal Truman would ask on Jimmy’s behalf for baked potatoes—he would describe exactly what he meant—‘in their jackets.’ Yet at every meal crisp little sautéed cubes would be served. Jimmy grew sulkier and sulkier. Finally I volunteered to scour the market for the nearest thing to an Idaho potato …”
From Yucca Valley we drove down to the Palm Springs Art Museum (which used to be called the Palm Springs Desert Museum and had live desert scorpions on display – now gone, alas) where there was a terrific exhibition of photographs by Richard Avedon, including this one of Truman Capote.
Now, I know, the phrase “potato-faced” is perhaps a bit overused, but if ever I saw a man with a potato face, it’s Truman Capote in that picture. Russian vodka may also have played a part in the overall effect.
We drove home afterwards and waiting in my email was an image of an unusually shaped German potato, or Kartoffel as they would have it. Perhaps both Jimmy N. and Truman would have been happy with a potato like this.