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Behold the potato! Bow to this fruit of the earth, and then peel it as if it were the last task of your miserable life!

It has many names. Kitchen Patrol. Spud Bashing. Whatever it's called, it seems you Can't Get Away with Nuthin', and once you're caught it's a Smash Cut to sitting on the floor of a drab kitchen somewhere next to a sack of potatoes, peeling them one at a time.

The stock Punishment Detail in the military in fiction, presumably for its instant-recognizability factor as opposed to, say, digging holes in the ground (read: latrines).

No longer Truth in Television, at least in the U.S. military, due to heavy use of third-party contractors who employ civilians to do this kind of stuff. Well, that and there are machines that peel potatoes these days.

Examples of Peeling Potatoes include:


  • Warrant Officer Oreldo in Pumpkin Scissors is very good at peeling potatoes, and references this trope as the reason why.
  • A nonmilitary but definitely punishment version: one of the Tenchi Muyo! OVA episodes had Ryoko, Aeka, and Mihoshi doing this as their share of repairing the extensive damage to a hot spring resort, with varying results. Ryoko did a hack job on hers with questionable accuracy, Aeka primly carved each millimetre of skin with painstaking deliberation, and Mihoshi outstripped both easily (and boasted about it).
  • In the second season of Strike Witches, Gertrud gets sentenced to this for violating orders.

Comic Books

  • This was parodied/lampshaded in an issue of G.I. Joe, where several Joes peel potatoes and basically take turns complaining until the uber-serious Gung Ho tells them to stop bellyaching and do their jobs.
  • Seen in the French-Belgian comic series Les Tuniques Bleues.
  • Spoofed in the Lucky Luke album Le Vingtieme de Cavalerie (lit. the 20th Cavalry), after an Indian raid during which the food stores are burned. Luke sees four men sitting on the ground around a bucket making peeling hand motions. When he queries the Sergeant, he is informed that life in the cavalry goes on, potatoes or no potatoes. The sergeant then berates the men for not pretending to peel thinly enough and tells them that the colonel will pretend to inspect the pretend peels personally.
  • In a Scrooge McDuck story, Donald and his nephews were stuck in a ship, condemned to peel potatoes until the return to Duckburg... and to make things worse, with a counting parrot that started to see how many were there!
  • Floyd Gottfredson's The Pirate Submarine.
  • Happened to Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, when he was in the army. Unable to explain his absence without blowing his secret identity, he was assigned potato peeling as a punishment. Fortunatley for Alan, his sidekick Doiby Dickles was able to take over the peeling when Alan needed to become Green Lantern again.


  • Used as a punishment in Tigerland for Army draftees during the Vietnam War.


  • The Great Brain series has this happen several times.
  • Done by the Drill Sergeant Nasty to the trainees in the Kim Newman novella Teddy Bear's Picnic. In a particular sadistic twist, he changes his mind and then orders the recruits to glue the skins back on.
  • In the book, See Here, Private Hargrove, (1942) it is frequently an object of punishment. The book's setting was before the U.S. entered WWII.
  • As Mildly Military as Wraith Squadron could be, even they have punishment detail. The very first time all of the members of the new squadron were together at once, while Wedge was listing off their respective specialties, Face Loran decided to interrupt.

 Wedge: "Face is one of our insertion experts, proficient in makeup, speaks several languages other than Basic -"

Face: "Don't forget, master actor."

Wedge: * nods amiably* "And sometime cook. You're peeling tubers on kitchen duty tonight. Do you have anything else to add?"

  • In Feet of Clay, Nobby thinks to himself that anyone who responds to "Who likes good food?" in the military is going to be volunteered for KP duty, as part of an internal monologue as to why you should never volunteer for anything.

Live Action TV

  • Rimmer and Lister were forced to do this in an episode of Red Dwarf after ticking their captain off. Lister has the "great" idea of getting out of having to peel the literal mountain of potatoes by having a special virus eat the potato skins. Unfortunately for the duo, the virus also eats clothes.
  • Kendra Shaw in Battlestar Galactica: Razor
  • Gomer Pyle does this a lot.
  • MASH: Klinger was frequently threatened with KP duty if he didn't knock off his Scheme Of The Week to get a Section 8. Occasionally we saw him pulling KP duty including, yes, peeling potatoes.
  • On Mad Men, when the Drapers take in Betty's semi-senile WWI veteran father, Don comes home one day to find he's peeled all the potatoes in the house thinking he was on KP duty.

Newspaper Comics

Video Games

  • While the actual event didn't happen in game, in Wing Commander II, three of the survivors of the Tiger's Claw reminisce about a prank committed by a pilot from the first game who didn't live to the second that landed him doing this for a week.


  • Li'l Mell had Mell and Sergio put on potato-peeling duty when the homeschooled kid Mell brought for show and tell started a revolution against the school. Sergio lampshaded this by wondering where all the potatoes came from. (The cafeteria ladies. They joined the rebellion on the students' side.) Then Mell started a competing revolution, armed with the two potato peelers.
  • Schlock, Kevyn and Brad were sentenced to this once. Schlock, being a Blob Monster, peeled them with digestive juices rather than the peeler.

 Kevyn: "Tell no one how we finished so quickly."

Brad: "I'm having stuffing instead of potatoes this week."

Web Original

  • The Strong Bad Email "pet show" has Strong Bad triumphantly announcing that he's doing this as a way to get out of admitting that he and The Cheat lost the competition.

Western Animation

  • In the Ren and Stimpy army episode this is done straight the first time, the second time has them scraping potato-peelers over watermelons, and the third time has them scraping potato-peelers over nuclear bombs.

  Stimpy: "I think the Sarge likes you best, Ren, because he gave you the most potatoes to peel!"

  • The ending of the classic Disney cartoon Steamboat Willie
  • The 1942 Donald Duck cartoon Sky Trooper where he joins the Army Air Corps, and has to peel potatoes after he nearly gets his training officer killed in a mishap.
    • He also starts that one peeling potatoes, watching planes go by and wishing he were in one of them...and he absentmindedly peels one potato into an airplane...which flies and brings Sergeant Pete's hat back to him...which he absentmindedly starts peeling.
      • He also ends "Donald Gets Drafted" peeling spuds, while the last verse of the specially-made song "The Army's Not The Army Anymore" plays sarcastically in the background:

 The Army's not the Army anymore

It's better than it's ever been before

The Sargent isn't tough anymore, He's careful not to bore you

Just tell him when you're peelin' spuds, And he will peel them for you

(Donald holds up a just peeled-off potato peel spelling "Phooey!" at this point)

  • A few Donald Duck cartoons have this, even DuckTales.
  • In the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Will Work For Ed", Ed gets a job on Rolf's farm, and his first task is to peel a huge mountain of potatoes. Edd devises a machine to do the job faster, but what really ticks Rolf off is Eddy julienning the potatoes with a tennis racket.
  • Poor Jim in Treasure Planet constantly gets stuck with this job.
  • In an episode of The Jetsons where George joins the army, he's assigned this. It involves pressing two buttons, one to peel an entire sack of potatoes in a second, and one to mash them. He spends both seconds complaining about how hard punishment detail is.
  • In a Mister Know-It-All segment in Rocky and Bullwinkle when Bullwinkle demonstrates how to escape from Devil's Island. Boris the warden demands Bullwinkle to peel potatoes which he didn't at all when potatoes are boiled.
  • An episode of Chowder saw Mung and his titular apprentice in servitude to Endive in exchange for an exotic fruit necklace. Their final task was to peel "growtatoes", which are just like normal potatoes, except they grow exponentially until fully peeled and threatened to crush the two chefs.

Real Life

  • Still very much Truth in Television around much of the world, as even in the USA it started to become a Dead Horse Trope only in the '70s when the military started to outsource the service functions like feeding the personnel. Many other armies still do it in-house, providing ample possibility for this trope.
    • Even in ships at sea, where you don't have civilians to outsource the potato peeling to, its not used as a punishment detail anymore; everybody (below a certain rank) just gets to take a turn.
  • Interestingly, in Soviet and Russian army kitchen patrol always was considered a privilege and not the punishment, as it allowed the soldier to sit in warm kitchen doing tedious but easy job, and not work his ass off doing whatever the seniors saddled him with. Also it basically let the soldier to eat whatever he wants whenever he wants, and not a set menu in the set hours only.
    • Combat soldiers in the IDF tend to have the same opinion for similar reasons--kitchen duty is usually easier and less unpleasant then say, guard duty, cleaning or maintenance work, and provides access food outside of meal time. Soldiers in supporting roles tend to have the opposite opinion; their regular duty isn't so unpleasant that the kitchen is an improvement.
    • It might be getting a thing of the past, as Russian military have also started to outsource the feeding of its personnel. On the other hand, this reportedly brought a marked increase in both quality and quantity of the food, as civilian contractors are decidedly more professional in cooking than most soldiers, and also steal significantly less than military intendants in fear of losing the contract.
  • Snuffy Smith, medal of honor achiever was to be given his medal. However it took the people who were supposed to give it to him a bit of time to find him. He was in kitchen patrol. Although the task in question was not peeling potatoes, he did peel potatoes for the newspapers.
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