A romantic encounter with Ireland’s most charismatic business mogul

I respect him. He’s the only mogul in Ireland with no intention of running for the presidency

His large face was mesmerising and his Mona Lisa-like smile seemed to draw more and more information from me. I began to feel self-conscious.

His large face was mesmerising and his Mona Lisa-like smile seemed to draw more and more information from me. I began to feel self-conscious.

 

Recently I was minding my own business in a local wine bar when an enigmatic stranger appeared beside me. He had an open face, a wide smile and a slightly odd pallor offset by a bright, expensive looking jacket.

“Yum,” I found myself saying without thinking.

He gestured gracefully with his hand as if to ask, “Is this seat free?” The seat was free and I had nowhere else to be as it was Thursday afternoon and thanks to “unions” I’m practically un-fireable.

The interloper jumped up on the barstool. He was a large man but he carried himself as though he were weightless. “Tasty,” I found myself saying without thinking.

And then we talked into the evening, him and me. Well, I talked. He listened in thoughtful silence as though he were my confessor. I spoke about my hopes and dreams (hopes: that I will eat of every animal; dreams: that I’m naked at the shopping centre, but it’s fine, everyone is pleased for me).

His large face was mesmerising and his Mona Lisa-like smile seemed to draw more and more information from me. I began to feel self-conscious.

“But… but what about you?” I stammered after a while. “Tell me about yourself.”

He waved the query away as though he was of no importance and I giggled like a child.

So all I could do was guess at his identity. He was, it was clear, a man of appetites, being almost entirely circular, and I’m pretty sure I could see lascivious thoughts in his small dot-like eyes (FYI, I’m pretty hot, the byline picture does me no justice).

He was not, however, a drinker. Indeed, when he brought his glass of Aqua Libra to his smiling mouth it seemed to just bounce off the yellow plane of his face and the level of the drink never actually went down in the glass. I was, in contrast, completely shitfaced.

What else could I glean? Well, his fancy boater, pinstriped trousers and shiny shoes indicated that he was a man of wealth and standing and I can’t pretend that that didn’t appeal to me (I talk a big talk about socialism but I’m no schmuck). I imagined myself being set up with a little apartment somewhere in town, hosting salons there with the likes of Gerald Kean, The Coronas, Twink and Graham Knuttel.

Theme park

Later I learned that he was a successful business person and entrepreneur. He owned a theme park filled with rides and animals and carved effigies of himself. He suggested, through mime, that I might go there sometime and I fanned myself with the coupons he gave me, feeling a little flushed. “Is… is there a Mrs Tayto?” I drooled.

And that’s the beginning of an erotic novel I’m writing about Mr Tayto based on a magical experience that I had with what turned out to actually be an overheated promotional worker in a plastic Mr Tayto suit. Over the ensuing paragraphs it gets a little too steamy for publication in The Irish Times but let me just say that the bouncers in this town can be very heavy-handed and the Sindo have bought the serialisation rights (they’re not afraid of “art”, unlike some people).

Tayto Park, taken by David Cantwell. Regards,Rita Kirwan Marketing Director Largo Foods Ltd.Ph: 835 06 11 Fax: 835 18 32 www.mrtayto.ie
Mr Tayto had an open face, a wide smile and a slightly odd pallor offset by a bright, expensive looking jacket Photograph: David Cantwell.

Anyway, the experience came back to me this week when an article by my colleague, Jennifer O’Connell, about Brexit-based care packages for “the Brits” led to an online discussion of Taytos and their foul imperialistic impersonators “Taytos from Northern Ireland”.

Due to a freak of commercial history, Northern Irish Taytos are produced by a different company and they are the ones with the rights to export to the UK. Their produce tastes, as you might imagine, like ashes in the mouth of most good republicans (don’t even get me started on “King” crisps). And there are other such regional anomalies. There’s also a slightly different Northern version of Buckfast which has a different consistency and alcohol content and which one (unofficial) Irish Times food critic describes as, “tasting like eight hundred years of oppression.”

He’s largely a force for good (making crisps) though he occasionally does evil (making chocolate bars with crisps embedded)

This is a long way of saying that Tayto from Northern Ireland’s mascot, Orange Mr Tayto, is a freakish, toothy grinner lacking the serene, silent sensuality of my boyfriend Papist Mr Tayto (I think it’s because the latter goes to confession). How is it that a man apparently constructed out of a bulbous root vegetable exerts such an influence on our nation, right down to being a potent symbol of partition?

I suppose we do like our chieftains in Ireland and he’s not the only anthropomorphised food stuff we’ve known. There’s the Jolly Green Giant (a large nudist who is made of peas) and those aggressive weird M&Ms who like to eat one another (also nude, except for shoes). There are also other anthropomorphised food mascots who were hit by lightning and became real like Kevin “Smoky” Bacon.

Force for good

Mr Tayto is different. He’s largely a force for good (making crisps) though he occasionally does evil (making chocolate bars with crisps embedded) and I respect him because he’s the only business mogul in the country with no intention of running for the presidency.

However, the very nature of Mr Tayto’s existence raises troubling questions even for those of us who love him.

Firstly, is he a man who looks like a potato or is he a potato engaged in a disturbing (if sexy) charade of humanity? If he’s the former, well then, well done to Mr Tayto! He’s not the first potato-like man to treat this nation like his own personal fiefdom and he won’t be the last.

If he is the second option, however, and he truly is a potato overseeing the harvesting and mutilation of fellow potatoes, is he not a bit of a monster? Oh Jesus… It just occurred to me… Are the crisps he shills his children? Oh God. Does he literally give birth to the crisps? If so, there should be an ad in which that happens. We’ll eat them anyway, probably.

Or perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps the crisps are shaved from his body as a form of painful sacrifice that leaves him depleted and spent.

“You can’t keep doing this to yourself, John!” (His name is “John Tayto”)

“I must,” gasps Mr Tayto, lying face down in the operating room. “The people… need… tasty… snacks… they… are… dangerously… underweight.”

If so, are the cheese and onion added afterwards or do different parts of his body come in different flavours? These are just the questions every child asks themselves as they dip their hands into a delicious bag of crisps culled painfully from Mr Tayto’s body.

And if this is true, of course he deserves to have his own theme park. Yes, I know that no-one who goes there ever returns and we traditionally don’t speak of this, but that’s a small price to pay to live in the land that has the best crisps. I love you Mr Tayto, whatever the hell you are.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.