"The man, who had for years struggled to feed his family, knew immediately what he wanted. He could imagine a hardy and simple plant whose roots would collect and store nourishment and energy, that he and his children could easily collect from the earth even after the rest of the harvest was in and gone. He offered the young god his image of this lifesaving plant, with its small stature above ground and generous roundness underneath. The protective skin of it would be tan, like his own. He produced the most detailed imagining of this plant that he could, and passed it to the god, who accepted it from his mind with a smile.
"'There,' said the man, giving a name to his dream, 'make me a potato.'
"The god considered this request, head cocked to one side, then he nodded. His eyes flashed and the world was bathed in their light. Then he put down the small plant he had in his hand and watched as the earth closed around it.
"There," he said, 'You're a potato.'
"He chuckled at his own cleverness, then went on to other amusements.
"As for the man, his wife and children eventually gave up on his ever coming back. Years later People discovered the plant his sacrifice had created, but they knew nothing of him. They gave great credit to the people who tended the potatoes and made them prosper, until they became commonplace and taken for granted. We'll never know the name of the man who gave us this great gift."
"But surely he wouldn't have called a potato the same thing we do," said Tashi, scrubbing at a particularly rough patch of dirty potato skin.
"Well, no, probably not. But it's not necessary to know his original word of creation in order to learn the lessons contained in the story."
"Lessons? What lessons are buried in that story?"
"If I tell you, you will just parrot my words back to me without thinking about what I said. How can you truly learn from experience unless you draw your lessons from it yourself?"
Tashi thought for a moment.
"Perhaps the lesson is that you should be careful what you ask for, especially from a god."
"What, don't you like potatoes?" asked Sanjo. "I think it was a very nice thing he asked for."
"Then perhaps the lesson is that the gods can have a cruel sense of humor," said Tashi.
"If you believe in gods..." Sanjo said noncommittally.
"Perhaps you would say the lesson is that good things come only through sacrifice?" asked Tashi archly, thinking about certain sacrifices that had been demanded recently.
"Maybe I had no great lessons in mind. Perhaps I was just pondering out loud the origin of the potato. And being grateful" --Sanjo paused to cut out an eye-- "that I have something to eat for dinner."
Tashi asked no further questions. The rest of the peeling was done in thoughtful silence.