Tater Tots are the Roller Coaster of Potatoes

Fries are dope as fuck, and there’s a lot of different types of fries. However, with the regular brand of fries(not curlied or Cajun), they mostly go under the same categories as pizza and sex. There isn’t really bad sex or bad pizza, and while there are some bad fries, there mostly aren’t bad fries. As much as I hate the fries at Burger King and Jack In the Box, that is more of a value thing, than an actual taste problem. When I pay two dollars for an average baggy of small fries, it does not feel good. Likewise, when my mom knocks on my door to give me a plate of fries that I did not pay or work for, those taste bomb as hell. In general fries are very good, and only the best fries create the biggest divides — McDonald’s, Five Guys, and Red Robin. And really those are more or less about whether the fries themselves are just regular, or really damn good. Heck, some people become so accustomed to “their fries” that other fries just tasted for them. Those are good discussions to have.

At its highest fries are incredibly flexible with their ability to either be redesigned or topped on. Criss cut and waffle fries are fun, but my favorite is curly. Steak fries are incredibly underrated by the modern generation, and that is probably an aesthetic thing. Nachos were great until people started doing the superior version — carne asada fries. Similarly, chili cheese dogs were cool, until people realize that they would rather top chili chese on the side dish, the fries, to make them the entree. People expanded from there and added whatever they want onto fries ranging from: bacon, pastrami, sauerkraut, onions, garlic, pizza(no legit there are pizza fries some places), and even kimchi. Fries are so dope.

When it comes to Baked Potatoes, they are just a regular old “healthier” alternative that are simple to make. Also, if you want to be healthy just don’t eat potatoes, and if you can’t give them up, just give up other stuff. Baked potatoes often aren’t worth it and how good they are is often decided upon by what you put on your baked potato(usually making them unhealthy). I’m a big fan of the cheesy baked potato, but besides that I hate sour cream(sorry), and that ruins most baked potatoes for me. A simple buttered up baked potato is fine for me. The baked potato ceiling is not very high, and the floor is also somewhat low, so they never really achieve the same level of fries or any other potato.

Mashed Potatoes are possibly the most complementary form of potatoes. Fries and other forms of potato have quietly tossed away the side dish role and became a main star, but mashed potatoes are the true sidekick that the world needed. Think about where you consistently see mashed potatoes as the main side, in southern bbq places and fried chicken joints topped with gravy. When you get good soul food and southern bbq, the mashed potatoes are a good blending source of flavor. Your sauce from the hot links and brisket gets all over the plate and what you do is: rip off a piece of your white bread and dip it in the sauce to create moisture, from there you dry it off with mashed potatoes and scoop in some meat for the perfect creation. With fried chicken joints, the gravy atop the mashed potatoes is to create some flavor and divert the dryness. Mashed potatoes goes from being a dryer to a being a moisturizer in different place. They have a much higher floor than baked potatoes, and a higher ceiling, but still nowhere near fries.

Now on to the main subject, tater tots. Instagram has created a focus on foods being not only part of sustenance, but part of our social lives. People travel miles just to post on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and for the older folks Facebook, about this beautiful new drink or food that they have gotten. It has created a big focus on trendy teas and coffees, which I am personally in love with as I love a good almond iced coffee, but has also turned drinking out of light bulbs and mason jars okay things. I do not care if the light bulb was never created to host electricity and is incapable of conducing anything, I still refuse to drink out of a fucking light-bulb, I don’t plan on dying. Eating food at a trendy place with a “chill vibe” now outweighs sometimes the product we are actually eating. One of the trends I do love is the new increased focus on potatoes and thus, focus on tater tots and what a person can do with them.

The first time I ever had any form of tater tots was with the Burger King hash brown coins, and while I know they are not officially tots, tots are essentially mini hash browns. As a young kid who loved Burger King more than anything, I loved the taste and I loved how “different” they were. At that age I also loved cereal and foods sometimes just because of the commercials or how they looked, I think we all did, but I bugged my family hard until I got it(yeah, I didn’t like kid me either).

The next time I got to try tots was at the new school I went to in second grade. I was amazed to see this potato concoction in front of me. At that point I thought tots were reserved for kings and dukes, or rich people. Quick disappoint hit me as the tots were stale and crunchy, like eating a layer of sheets rocks in order to get a soft potato inside that was somewhat good, but not fully cooked. It put a bad taste in my mouth, and eventually I ended up bringing a lunch packed by grandma to school everyday(I also didn’t qualify for free school lunch — important fact to this story). I did not try tater tots again until going to a place called LeRoy’s in Monrovia, a place that specializes in tots. This place and the Napoleon dynamite movie changed my entire opinion on tots, I viewed them as superior to fries in every way.

Then middle school hit and I stopped bringing lunch to school everyday in order to get lunch with my friends so I could be a “cool kid”. Tater tots became disgusting. They were a little bit better than the tots I had in elementary, but overall still the same, and in some cases they would be like frozen rocks. In high school, tater tots were something fun to play with as a form of art and creativity. Stacking tots and finding ways to play pranks on our friends with them were all the rage. Finally as a young adult figure, tater tots suddenly became awesome again.

First, let me disclose something: Asian food culture is the most inventive and creative food culture that we have, they often use their assortment of spices and flavors in order to take simple foods to a higher level. White culture then takes their innovations, bastardizes them by making them way fatter, deep frying it usually, and keeps the simplest flavors in order to brand it for mainstream culture. The main example of this is ramen. They took a beautiful creation and put it in a simple instant cup that had no flavors or toppings that would appall a first time consumer of the good. Ramen is at its best when you are pushing the limits of it and its flavors. I love to get ramen at one inch higher than my normal spice limit in order to test myself, I don’t love garlic, but I need garlic in my ramen, and you better add some egg and pork to it. Other examples: Gyoza, Kimchi, Sushi, Thai tea, and tofu related meals.

At the 626 night market(an immaculate super farmer’s market of food and culture that is predominately Asian) in 2014, I was lucky enough to try a beautiful tater tot focused dish. It was a beautiful basket of deep fried then grilled tater tots that was topped with grilled onions and a sriracha aioli sauce with kimchi on the side. I would say that I only enjoyed about half of the ingredients in that meal individually, but when you mix it all together and take a bite, it creates a melisma of flavor that just hit the note of “deliciousness”. What mattered in that meal is that it satisfied me. All the tastes and angles came together to matter, it was a really cool “roller coaster” because all of the angles and loops it took. The tater tots were nice and crispy on the outside and as you chew the inner potato begins to envelop the flavor and creates a balance in your stomach. When the onions aftertaste hits you, it requires a sip of your beverage to be taken in order to refresh yourself and dig in more to get that same original flavor back.

This awesome roller coaster has often been reiterated in simpler ways by many restaurants and boba places trying to cash in and profit on the trendy phase of tater tots. In the last couple months I have tried both pizza tots(tater tots covered in hot cheese and pepperoni) and chili cheese tots. What I found with them was that their taste was similar to one of those roller coasters whose soul focus is to take you as high as they can and rapidly take you down. Sure it had the vain allure of deliciousness on the outside. The first couple bites were cool and I was able to post the pics on Snapchat, but in the end the flavor was simple: grease, fat, and additives. You eat them as they are addictive, but by the end you do not feel satisfied, you just feel bloated and want to puke. The Itis is a soul food idea that after you finish eating something so hearty and good that you need to sleep. These poor versions of tots are the nightmare Itis, your body wants to sleep and shut down, but if you do you’ll feel sicker.

Roller coasters are very fun and have incredible high and lows, but the best roller coasters involve good design and tastes. Tater tots ceiling may be the highest out of all potatoes, but they could definitely make you feel sick.

25 years old. I blog about MTV's the Challenge and will dabble into other subjects occasionally. Follow me on Twitter for the occasional bad joke.