The World’s Most Perfect Food

By Greg Schwem | November 24th, 2022

Tater Tots takes the gold

A basket of tater tots with a container of ketchup. Image by Msphotographic.

Humorist Greg Schwem extols the glories of a perfect, popular food: Tater Tots. If you know, you know. If not, hear him out. His tailgating tale will seal the deal.

Hey foodies! Pop quiz. Name a morsel that pairs equally well with red or white. A side dish that would be the hit of any dinner party even if the pretentious host were serving some unpronounceable main course featuring ingredients acquired from the Indian Ocean four hours ago. A pièce de résistance with a taste that cannot be altered whether it is served in a silver chafing dish or on a paper plate.

No, it’s not bacon. But it goes with bacon. As I just mentioned, it goes with EVERYTHING.

Behold … Tater Tots.

The oval combination of potatoes, vegetable oil, corn flour and assorted chemical additives retained its “all around perfect food” title at a recent college football tailgate I co-hosted. As a longtime tailgate host, I ask only that my guests bring something other than themselves. Stop at the convenience store two minutes from the stadium for a bag of chips? Fine. Arise at 3:30 a.m. to slow cook ribs which you will bring to the 6:30 p.m. tailgate, along with your collapsible smoker? Also, fine.

As a result, my food table is a mishmash of dips, junk food, desserts, sandwiches and casseroles. Some items would hasten a coronary incident via a simple whiff. Others are plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and, with apologies to the chefs, flavor-free.

One hour into a recent tailgate, after most of the food had been arranged – I use that word loosely – a guest arrived with Tater Tots.

His contribution included no fanfare; let’s do a collective eye roll as we recall the annoying dinner party guest who arrives late and excuses her tardiness by stating her marrow roasted Brussels sprouts needed more simmering after she added some extra malt. Annoying guest spends the evening’s remainder interrogating other guests with subtle lines like, “You tried my Brussels sprouts, right? What did you think?”

For the record, I hate Brussels sprouts and always will.

The Tater Tots provider did no such thing. His tots arrived in a Tupperware container, which he placed between the salsa and the vegan chicken wings. Grabbing a beer, he mingled among the other guests, but his anonymity was short-lived.

“WHO BROUGHT THE TOTS?” someone yelled, loud enough for participants from a nearby tailgate to stop eating their crawfish etouffee and glance jealously in our direction.

“Me,” the tots chef replied, taking another sip of his beer.

“Awesome, dude!”

Once word had circulated, other guests quickly migrated to the food table, anxious to partake before the morsel had disappeared. Luckily, the tots chef had planned accordingly; step one of his recipe was, “Stop at Costco to purchase two industrial sized bags.”

As the tailgate was winding down and kickoff approached, a homeless man stopped by, asking for a monetary donation. Instead, my co-hosts offered him food. Hearing the conversation, I meandered over to participate.

Slightly embarrassed, he surveyed what was left of the spread as we listed the items. “We have seven-layer dip, pasta salad, smoked mac and cheese and some mini burgers,” I said.

“Uh, that’s OK,” he replied and began walking away.

“Oh, and we also have Tater Tots.”

The man did an about face.

“Tots? Well, all right then.”

Using tongs, he speared about a dozen, placed them onto a paper plate and walked away content, popping individual tots into his mouth via his fingers. Another beauty of Tater Tots? No utensils required.

As my co-hosts and I disassembled the tailgate, we marveled at how such a simple food item could bring so much joy to so many. We recounted our own infatuations with Tater Tots. Mine extended back 40 some years to middle school, where the cafeteria menu always featured tots, no matter what nose-curling main course the lunch ladies had concocted that day. Ditto for high school. When I attended my 30-year reunion, the buffet spread included multiple trays of tots, satisfying our cravings for nostalgia AND sustenance.

And the best part? Tots do not, and will never, contain Brussels sprouts.

Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad and the recently released The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian, available at Visit Greg on the web at

© 2021 Greg Schwem. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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