Monday, May 21, 2012

Mashed Potatoes

I'm terribly behind on my blog, or am I?  When one is doing something just for writing practice or for fun, or just because you want to, is it possible to get behind?  Some of my friends seem to think so.  Repeatedly friends have been asking me, "are you returning?"  "Where have you gone?  they asked.  "Are  you stewing about a proper subject matter on which to expound?" one of them asked.   "Oh, just write about mashed potatoes for about five minutes," someone suggested.   I shared that with someone who was on a weekend retreat here at St. Scholastica last weekend.  She happened to be a pun-er  and her response was, "Oh you should be able to whip that out in no time."

So mashed potatoes it is!  Actually mashed potatoes is a very vivid memory from childhood.  Sunday dinner:  Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and homemade ice-cream!  Mountains of mashed potatoes we seemed to have even when times were tough.  But I must go back yet further to the origin of their birth out in the field, at the edge of the deep woods.

The planting came first.  Earth freshly plowed, I walked along the rows dropping pieces of potatoes.  My young friend, Opal, had explained to me, "You must leave an eye on every piece of potato you plant.  It can't see how to grow without its eye."   Made sense to me!  But that was when I was still young and uncomplicated--not so very grown up and perhaps closer to the source of wisdom.  I would help cover the freshly planted potatoes -- earth all patted down over the pieces of potatoes I would dream of what they were seeing down there in the dark.

In the book, The Singing Creek where the Willows Grow,  the precocious child, Opal Whiteley, waxes eloquently about harvesting potatoes.  Quoting Opal, she says:

"When the potatoes were in piles, I did stop to take looks at them.  I walked up close; I looked them all over.  I walked off and took a long look at them.  Potatoes are very interesting folks.  I think they must see a lot of what is going on in the earth--they have so many eyes.  And after I did look those long looks as I did go along I did count the eyes that every potato did have and their numbers were in blessings."

After planting the potatoes the waiting began.  I forgot about them for awhile...when harvest time came we would plow them up and put them in piles according to sizes.    Although I didn't get quite as dramatic as Opal while digging for potatoes I, too, remember having conversations with them and sometimes I named them.

 Eventually they made it to the cellar. I was sent to the cellar when it was time to make mashed potatoes.  Carefully I chose the potatoes, washed, peeled and cooked them with a little seasoning.  And then the mashing began.  I used one those old fashioned smashers since we didn't own an electric  mixer back in those days.   Sometimes (if no one was looking) I would more or less attack the potatoes kind of like Sam did in the movie Bennie and Joon.  (In this movie Sam was a very young version of Johnny Depp)  This took the edge off the work and made it rather enjoyable.

The end of this story is a very good memory of our family sitting around the old wooden table having dinner, the mashed potatoes with a little dill sprinkled on the top was a very important part of the menu.

So many memories came to me as I reflected on mashed potatoes.  Those were good times and hard times and I still believe that working together to put a meal on the table is more fun than going to a restaurant; but that is only when everyone works together.

And what about you?  
What do you remember about mashed potatoes?


  1. They have always been a favorite food of mine!
    My daughter made them for us (last week) along with baked chicken (40 garlic chicken) and gravy.
    There were some leftover as Laura likes to peel and mash the whole bag of potatoes!
    I used some of the leftover potato for "potato cakes", just adding salt, pepper and a couple of eggs, then cooking like pancakes. Great with ketchup! My 12 year old granddaughter was impressed!

  2. Yum! I grew up with mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner too -- sometimes with roast chicken, sometimes with fried chicken (till Mom got a deep fryer for French fries), and sometimes with roast beef or pork. Always with gravy -- though occasionally with ketchup. And they became a favourite for special dinners when I grew up and had my own family. Ditto for planting and picking potatoes -- when my children were small, it was to them like digging for gold, I think.

  3. nice idea.. thanks for posting..

  4. Potatoes have eyes. Corn has ears. Lettuce has a head. So eating your vegetables makes senses.

    Sister Pun

    1. The earthy potato conjures up warm and happy memories of family. The potato was a hearty accompaniment to a meal. Looking back, I marvel at the creative ways my mother cooked with the potato in the form of sliced thin dutch fries (made in a skillet with oil); potatoes au gratin with cheddar cheese; pierogies (cheese and potato); baked and served with butter; cut in chunks and boiled in their skins served with butter; potato pancakes; french fries; and of course mashed with gravy or butter.