Dangerous Potatoes


I recall my parents cooking in the kitchen years back and my dad stealing raw potato chunks on the sly before they could make it into the pot. I, impressionable youth, copied this action, finding satisfaction in the eye-roll that my mom would give. “They’re no good that way.” Then she would shake her head and position herself just so, so that it’d be a little harder for us to steal more starchy, crunchy bites.

Turns out that … delicious or not … potatoes really are no good raw. (I sent a text to my mom the other day to the effect of ‘What does it feel like, this being right all the darned time!’ — it was on an unrelated matter. 😂 )
But, back to those potatoes. If you’ve followed my social media in recent months, you may have noticed the occasional hint and comment about what I am working on next. And if you are, by any chance, acquainted with my husband, you may have heard his good-humored lamentations on my browser history.

The book is entitled The Poison Game and is slated for release end of next year (end of 2021.) The topic? Yep. It’s in the title… 😁
In essence, the history of the birth and growth of forensic toxicology in England in the mid-1800s caught my attention. (As can happen when one is reading up on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as often as I have been.) Thus the story I’m penning evolves around two men, friends, dire enemies, who are rising in the relatively new field of forensic toxicology and so are forced to work together when a mysterious serial poisoner begins to haunt London. Oh, and incidentally, these two doctors, Rose and Lewis, have an ongoing game between themselves wherein they poison one another on the sly, trusting to the wits of the other to, you know, not die. 🤷‍♀️

The research for this book is some of the most fascinating I’ve done. I’ve made a deep dive into early Victorian medicine–working mostly from primary sources. Two nights ago, a medical student’s diary led me to an earlier edition of Materia Medica than I had previously been using. In hunting down the first edition — which his professor had worked on — I found myself reading the darned thing cover to cover. Which brings me to back ’round to potatoes:

“Accordingly, we find that many poisonous plants yield valuable articles of food, of which the Potato is a familiar instance.” – Ballard and Garrod (1846). Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics. (1st ed.) Hogan and Thompson.

I’m sorry, what? Needless to say, I was incredibly curious about this offhanded comment. But, yes, it’s apparently true. Potato plants are poisonous. Who knew! I certainly did not.

Will it stop me from stealing a raw slice on the sly next time I am cooking…? Well, dear reader, do not presume that my infrequent blogging here has meant that I have succumbed to dangerous potatoes at last.

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