Appalachian Dialect

Hoodoo’d Potatoes

Irish Potatoes

A few weeks ago I received the follow question on the Blind Pig and The Acorn’s Facebook page.

“Hi! My mother grew up in the mountains of WVa and remembers around WWII that the government handed out potatoes to different county governments for local distribution. There was some sort of “cheating” that perhaps went on and the potatoes came to be called “Hoodoo’d” (cheating, fraud, etc.) potatoes. Do you have any information about this? She’d really like to know if any of the variety still exists. Thank you!”


Have you ever heard of hoodoo’d potatoes?


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  • Reply
    Jim B.
    February 11, 2021 at 11:41 pm

    Hoodooed where I’m from growing up was anything that did not act or perform as it should, or was thought to be hexed. Horse just keeled over and died cause ole so and so hoodooed it. Don’t steal melons off’n her place, she’ll hoodoo ya fer sure!

    • Reply
      Sunshine Smith
      February 14, 2021 at 6:39 pm

      When I asked my Grandmother why she couldn’t stand Herbert Hoover, she replied that he had farmers spray excess potato crops with a blue dye which made them poisoned to eat. This was done in order to keep the price of potatoes high, during the depression when folks were starving and her neighbors were eating the grass and greens from their yard and pulling the planks off the house to put in the fireplace to keep warm.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    Never heard this before Tipper

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 20, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Several years ago at a little town festival I saw an old quilt which I was told was made from government issued supplies during the depression. Has anyone else heard of this? I wasn’t able to find out anything.

    Speaking of not knowing what to do with unfamiliar food–Daddy said the first time he got an ice cream cone, he didn’t know whether or not to eat the cone itself.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    I don’t know about hoo-doo, but the biled grapefruit cracks me up!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    I thought you had a new recipe for cooking potatoes and I got excited!

  • Reply
    Patricia Small
    February 19, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    I’m late responding but what an interesting post. I don’t believe there is a variety of potatoes called Hoodoo. Most likely folks didn’t trust the government and also I assume most of the food handed out was below standard (farmers knew what good potatoes looked like). Hoodoo also means to fool “…you done hoodoo’d the hoodoo man”. Sounds like a great phrase to me!

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      February 19, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      Actually the food they handed out was good as most as you could get anywhere. The government bought as a means of price support for farmers, ranchers and dairymen. They bought it when there was a surplus so that market price stayed up instead of having a glut on the market and ending up with food spoiling before it could be bought. They gave it to people who didn’t have money to buy it even at a lower cost.
      But then they discovered they could pay the farmers not to produce and save having to handle the surplus. The poor didn’t get free food any more. So the birth of food stamps.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 19, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    I’ve never heard of Hoodoo’d Potatoes but have heard Hoodoo’d used to describe being cheated or cheating someone in a deal. When a youngster loved to travel around with my Maternal Grandpa who would trade for anything he thought he might turn a profit on, this was mainly livestock such as cattle, horses, mules and even goats and sheep. I’ve heard of getting Hoodoo’d when someone misrepresented something like the age of or physical condition of an animal which many traders were want to do. I remember once he bought a hog from a fellow at a local barbershop based on what the owner claimed was the age of the animal. When we went to pick up his Hog we discovered it was a Razorback someone had caught, Grandpa honored the deal but claimed you could stand and throw corn to the Hog and it wouldn’t fatten. He slaughtered the critter but that was the leanest pork he said he’d ever seen. He told me that this was a good lesson to never buy a “Pig in a Poke”. He definitely was Hoodoo’d on this deal.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Never heard this about potatoes, heard it plenty around old men that traded dogs or knives, cars or trucks.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 19, 2020 at 11:17 am

    To me hoodoo’d means the same as hoodwinked. Or pulled the wool over someone’s eyes. Jinxed to me is yoodoo’d. I’ve never hear hoodoo used in connection with potatoes though or taters either.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      February 19, 2020 at 8:51 pm

      Make that voodooed!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 19, 2020 at 9:59 am

    I never heard of hoodooed potatoes. We raised our own. My parents lived thru the Great Depression, so us boys were taught not to accept anything from the Government. My oldest brother served in the Korean War and I remember him coming up on our front porch, after the War and late one night and making my Mama and Daddy cry. I never saw this guy, I hid under the Kitchen Table when he bent over to pick me up. I thought he was alright though, cause Daddy and Mama knew who this was. The next morning I was up in his lap. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    February 19, 2020 at 9:46 am

    I remember my dad using the word hoodoo’d. He used it in the context of jinxed. The story of the grapefruits reminded me of one similar to the one my Daddy told. He grew up on a farm, raised by his father. During the Depression they raised corn, potatoes, turnips, and a number of other things. They would trade these things for other necessities with their neighbors and friends. My Grandpa had taken the children, and a wagon load of corn, many miles to a small country store to trade some things out. The children sat on the porch while Grandpa took care of the business inside. A kind lady brought them each a banana. They had never even seen a banana before. She went back inside and before they left asked if they had enjoyed their treat. Daddy politely told her that it was OK, but what did she want him to do with the cobb? LOL True or not, I have to chuckle every time one of my grand children tries a new food. Thanks for stirring up my remberance.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2020 at 9:11 am

    When I hear the word hoodoo’d, to me, it means to take advantage of or mess over someone. I never heard the word associated with potatoes.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2020 at 8:27 am

    I think I loved information even as a child, so I hung on to bits and pieces along the way which have caused even more questions. Those are so many questions I wish I had asked. Both parents lived on farms and grew potatoes, so probably did not need to take advantage of Hoodoo’d potatoes. That is one of those questions I could probably ask, and they would know. So many parts of our past will be forever lost. as those older folks die off taking their vast knowledge with them.
    My parents lived through the Great Depression and he served in WW11,so I learned a lot about those days growing up. It seems a very faint memory and not totally sure, but seems I was shown a packet of ration stamps used when the war effort caused a shortage in some items. Also I recall some little kid bringing a Confederate bill to school to show off. Priceless is our history I will just have to read all the posts today to find out about those potatoes!!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 19, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Tipper–I’m not familiar with what were in effect welfare potatoes, but I vividly recall a story a high school teacher of mine who also wrote an educational history of Swain County, Lillian Thomasson, loved to tell. During the Depression years apparently the government shipped in various kinds of surplus, and in addition to her teaching work she helped with distribution. Usually it was more standard fare, but one week a train car load of grapefruit arrived. She distributed them as usual, never pausing to realize that most of the recipients likely had no knowledge of the citrus fruit.
    The next week, as she made her rounds, she asked a staunch old mountain woman how her family had liked the grapefruit.

    The woman replied: “Well, I biled (boiled) and I biled them, and those things never did get fit to eat.”

    Mrs. Thomasson would use the story as an example of her own insensitivity to things and as an object lesson to her students in the importance of awareness of the wider ramifications of what we did. In her view, she had made a mistake by failing to explain how grapefruit were eaten. She also noted that there was widespread resistance to government handouts. I guess that’s one thing which has changed, and not, in my view, for the better.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 19, 2020 at 7:40 am

    Not hoodooed potatoes but just hoodooed the word. As best I recall ‘hoodoo’ was mostly used to mean ‘jinx’. I remember ‘commodities’ being distributed but never potatoes. Everybody that wanted them had potatoes. They were Irish Cobbler (red) until Kennebec (white) became the most popular.

    I’m interested in knowing the story of hoodooed potatoes myself.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 19, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Never heard of hoodoo’d potatoes. Sounds like it might have been some way to get more potatoes than were supposed to get.

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