Aside from his hat, shoes and jaunty black ‘stache, little has changed about Mr. Potato Head over the years. Well, except for the spectacles, toupee, teeth, tobacco pipe, preternaturally pink ears and ...
For a nattily attired plastic dress-up toy with a revolving wardrobe and plug-in appendages, he remains a remarkably proportioned spud: pleasantly plump with no dents, bulges or imperfections. Now a Hollywood star thanks to the "Toy Story" films, the skin of this anthropomorphic stem tuber appears healthy and uniform and tan.
He is the perfect specimen.
But just as the physique of one Barbara Millicent Roberts has been adjusted to reflect the fact that not every giraffe-owning, pink Corvette-driving Malibu resident is a statuesque blonde with an alarmingly thin waist, Mr. Potato Head has been treated to a dramatic reimagining to show that vegetables can sometimes be lumpy, misshapen, bruised, crooked, oddly colored — different. And that’s OK. Even wonky vegetables can be loved. And more important, even wonky vegetables can be eaten and enjoyed.
Then there’s Wonky Mr. Potato Head, a new — and a touch grotesque — take on the iconic toy’s flawless and nonfluctuating form launched by toymaker Hasbro in collaboration with Walmart-owned British supermarket behemoth Asda.
While he likely won't appear in toy shops anytime soon (or ever), this malformed limited-edition take on Mr. Potato Head can be yours via eBay charity auction. All proceeds benefit FareShare, a food waste-battling charity that turns rejected and surplus — but still perfectly edible — foodstuffs into wholesome meals for “disadvantaged and vulnerable people on the margins of society.”
One of the top three largest grocers in the U.K. by market share alongside Tesco and Sainsbury’s, Asda has recently emerged as an outspoken champion of “wonky veg.” That is, produce that may be imperfect looking but by no means cannot be consumed — produce that has a bit more personality, you could say, in the aesthetics department. Taking a food waste-trimming cue from Intermarché, a major French supermarket chain that began to embrace “inglorious” fruits and veggies in 2014, Asda started selling boxes of wonky veg earlier this year.
As Sami Grover wrote back in February for MNN, Asda’s ugly produce-filled boxes are filled with a variety of unsightly and imperfect produce including carrots, parsnips, peppers, onions and, yep, potatoes. The deeply discounted boxes retail for £3.50 (about $5) and each contain enough produce, no less nutritious than its good-looking brethren, to feed a family of four for an entire week.
But back to Wonky Mr. Potato Head.
While he may startle young children accustomed to his normal, perfectly aligned self, you’ve got to love him — warped and semi-melted-looking, it appears that this off-kilter potato man is in the process of being blown over by an incredibly strong wind. Quick give him a carrot to clutch on to! The truth of the matter is, aside from the eyeballs and pants, Wonky Mr. Potato Head actually looks more like an actual potato that you’d pick up in a grocery store. He’s got character.
Writes Daniel Nicholls, FareShare’s corporate development officer, in a news release issued by the organization:
We are always happy to give surplus wonky veg a home — it’s the taste, not the shape that counts, and the charities and community groups we support can turn them into delicious meals for people in need. We are very grateful that the proceeds from this unique Wonky Mr. Potato Head auction will enable us to help those charities feed more people, and we’d encourage people to bid big! Every £1 we raise will mean we can provide enough food to make four meals for vulnerable and hungry men, women and children here in the UK.
While the auction — the highest bid stands at £225 as of this writing — aims to draw attention to the food waste epidemic while raising funds for a good cause, the overall message here is a simple life lesson that should resonate well with children: Just because someone or something — be it a plastic toy, a cucumber or a shelter cat — looks different from the rest, doesn’t mean it’s unworthy of love, attention and, in this particular case, consumption. Ugly food deserves to be eaten — and sometimes played with.
On that note, Mr. Potato Head wasn’t always a perfectly formed plastic ovoid.
When Hasbro first introduced the toy in 1952, it consisted of only plastic accessories and body parts. Children had to supply their own potato or another fruit or vegetable to complete their own DIY work of humanoid produce. Following numerous complaints, likely from parents who had grown weary of rotten mustachioed russets littering the house, Hasbro began selling a plastic potato “body” along with the hairpieces and accessories in 1964. The company also introduced the body due to changing toy safety regulations, which deemed Mr. Potato Head’s previously unblunted accessories — sharp enough to puncture the skin of a potato — dangerous to children.