Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Mashed Potato Story

Many folks commented and supported my cooking efforts on my last post. Thank you! But Meander was the one who prompted this post when she said "I would love to hear the mashed potato story". So without further delay...

The disastrous mashed potato dish which Daughter13 has burned into her memory needs a bit of history so you'll understand my relationship to the mashed potato.

When my wife and I were just dating, we got together to share a meal. We were going to work together to prepare it...and then settle in to enjoy it. And one of the items we planned to eat was mashed potatoes. At some point in the preparation for the meal, she began peeling potatoes.

Now, I should insert here that I did eat food as a child. I grew up eating a variety of foods - including mashed potatoes. My mom cooked dinner every night. If it came in a can or a box, she cooked it. Excessively. Excruciatingly. Until all flavor and nutritional value had successfully been removed. So I knew a thing or two about food.

So I asked, with real curiosity, "What are you gonna do with those?"

To which my wife casually replied, "These are for the mashed potatoes."

Now, when you are in a new relationship, a guy is hesitant to point out to his girlfriend that she has lost her mind. But I couldn't just overlook this insanity. So I gently commented, "But honey, those are for baked potatoes, not mashed potatoes."

She paused in her potato peeling and looked at me with an astonished expression - as if I had just grown a third eye on my forehead. And she asked the million dollar question, "Well where do you think mashed potatoes come from?"

"From a box."

Some time later, after recovering from the uncontrollable laughter and changing into dry pants, she returned to peeling her potatoes and continued the conversation.

"So you think mashed potatoes come from a box?"

In what later proved to be an amazing exercise in naiveté, I pushed forward, "Yes. You must have seen then at the store. These boxes have these little potato-flavored flakes in them and you just boil some water and pour them in. You add some milk. And that is how you get mashed potatoes."

This produced another round of laughter and some gasping comments such as "Stop it. You're killing me!"

After gaining some measure of control and completing an additional change of pants, my soon-to-be wife patiently explained the amazing story of How A Potato Becomes Mashed Potatoes.

This was culinary magic! I had no idea. I honestly thought that mashed potatoes were sort of a fake food product that you only got from a box.

My wife not only revealed this secret of potatoes to me, but during our first years of marriage she also taught me how to make mashed potatoes using actual, real potatoes. Don't get me wrong, our cupboard usually has some potato flakes in it for emergencies. But we also have whole potatoes for actual cooking and eating.

And all this brings us to The Mashed Potato Story. A few years ago my wife was out of town for some reason, and I was left to feed and provide a relatively safe home environment for our three children. And one night I decided to make mashed potatoes to go along with whatever else we were having. So I did exactly like I had been taught. I peeled the potatoes. I diligently diced them into cubes and put them in boiling water. I tested them often for just the right degree of tenderness. I drained them at just the right moment. And then I mashed them...adding milk, butter, and salt for just the right taste and texture.

I got one out of two. The taste was just fine. But I made a serious error in judgment when adding milk. Way too much! I did not have mashed potatoes in the pot. I had something that looked more like potato broth.

The rest of dinner was ready. Three children looked at me with hungry, expectant faces. What do you do when your potatoes are too thin? My wife had not taught me that!

But I'm an adult. I can problem-solve. What would be the logical strategy for saving this dish?

Yes! Add those potatoes from the box!! If those are flakes where you just add water...well then they'll work just fine adding them to my potato broth. They'll soak up some of the moisture, creating just the right consistency. And they'll just add more potato-flavored goodness.

So I added a bunch of flakes. Stirred them in. Oops. Too many flakes. Now I had potato cement. No problem, just a bit more milk. Damn! Too much milk! This whole cooking thing was turning out not to be as easy as Julia Child made it seem! But I persevered.

And eventually ended up serving something vaguely resembling a potato bisque. That tasted like crap.

And while the rest of the meals I've cooked for my kids have usually come out fine. And while I've made mashed potatoes (from real potatoes, which is still just really cool!) many times without incident. That one disaster has settled into the brains of my children. And I never cook without being asked, in a hesitant and frightened voice, "You aren't making mashed potatoes, are you?"


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

LOL! Great story.

creative-type dad said...

Too funny!

I had an asian roomate in college who made rice that didn't come in a bag that you boil -I thought that was really weird.

Dorky Dad said...

That story is absolutely hilarious. I myself recall the days when I thought that potatoes came out of a box. Potato-made mashed potatoes were so exotic.

The Wizened Wizard said...

I love it!! I once "cooked" instant mashed potatoes for a boyfriend... He watched me with a look resembling horror... and I think that was the last time he ever came to my house!

I can't seem to find the community bulletin board, so (I hope you don't mind) I'm posting this here:



BRING A DISH TO PASS (How about mashed potatoes?)


Elizabeth and Sigmund have agreed to come, Raymond will be there, and Bambi, Flower, and Thumper Jr. have all said they would make an appearance, so please come to meet them in person. Wiley will provide song.

Hope to see you there!

radioactive girl said...

That story was really funny! I would have thought that adding the flaked potatoes would have worked just fine, but then again, you read my story about the "yummy dinner" I made recently.

Thomas Vickers said...

I can cook, but I don't do mashed taters. That honor belongs to my wife.

I have seen her add the instant taters to the mix once in a while though. There must be magic involved.

Keep up the good work. Before you know it, you will be a great cook and the kids will love you even more


Baron Ectar said...

Damg man the Army would love you!

surcie said...

The only time I ever had mashed potatoes from a box was when my mother-in-law used them in a chocolate cake recipe. I was scared at first, but it was delish!

Beth said...

That is too funny!

My husband grew up in the "city" and didn't know you could get potatoes out of a garden, digging them up. He refused to eat them when I planted them...they didn't come from a bag.!

he also made mashed potatoes and added too much milk...wall paper paste. I , of course, have NEVER done anything like that.

Rose said...

ROFL. Thank you for sharing that great story with us and thanks for becoming a reg reader of my blog.

Mr. Althouse said...

That's a good story! Although I knew where mashed potatoes came from, I fear my future ex-wife thought much the same as yourself. No, it was not the reason for our divorce. Or was it??

Michele sent me.


bardouble29 said...

I was dating a guy who once told me that if I ever served him fake mashed potatoes he would never speak to me again...needless to say we didn't stay together too

~Cathy~ said...

LOL... great story! I actually boxed mashed potatoes are just as good as the real thing. Well, maybe not just as good but they're a heck of a lot easier!!

Michele sent me!

Melody said...

Hehehe...great story. I rmember I worked with a girl (who was in her 20's at the time) who didn't realise that eggs came from chickens!!! Oh my. What a joke that was around my work place.

I'm here via Michele today but I think I will be back. You have the same blog design as me - you have good taste! Hehe

colleen said...

I remember the first time I told a little 3 or 4 year old friend that french fries were pototaoes. She thought I was crazy!

Jazz said...

Which is why Mr. Jazz does the cooking rather than me.

Dirk_Star said...

i'm telling you, Ramen and pop-Tarts.

I've never served this meal up to any group of kids and had a complaint...

Also, at the store, look for any canned pasta product ending in O's and you are a culinary master to the kids.

Oh, and toaster waffles for dessert...

Em said...

Ah Dirk, so nice to know you'll be a dad soon. You'll need to borrow some of my recipes. :)

At least I knew potatoes grew in the ground. And I knew there was rice that didn't come in a bag (though the bag makes it so much easier!). And please don't tell the army I'm using their recipe. They might come calling!

barbie2be said...

if at first you don't succeed.... :)

michele sent me.

Kati said...

LOL I told my hubby about your story this morning when he asked if we could have mashed potatoes with our roast chicken tonight for dinner.

That's ok, he thinks spinach comes from a can, and can't understand HOW I can like the frozen stuff or the fresh stuff. ;)

Catherine said...

That's hilarious! I don't think we had instant mashed potatoes in New Zealand when I was growing up. I suspect that we can buy them now, but I've never looked so I'm not too sure on that
Michele sent me

Teena said...

I'm a major fan of potatoes ... mashed, boiled, baked, fried, etc.

I thought I would pee my pants reading your story!!!!

Rebecca said...

I love it! I think your Mom and MY Mom went to the same cooking school....hahaha!

Rene said...

Oh my, that was one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. Glad you shared it.

Bob-kat said...

OMG! That is so funny! It reminded me of when my dear Dad was left in charge of me and my siblings adn made lumpy gravy. He decided to strain it, having 3 hungry kids waiting expectantly and hungrily, thinking this would be the best thing to do. So he got a seive and held it over the sink and dutifully poured the gravy through it. Of course what he was left with were the lunps while the gravy washing the plug hole! I think he then strated improvising with Oxo cubes!

That Chick Over There said...

I had no idea that mashed potatoes out of a box even existed until I was like, in Junior High I think. We were dirt-ass poor and our potatoes came out of the dirt. By God!

Or whatever.

Did your mom come from the South? I've noticed that many people in the south feel that cooking things such as vegetables means, a soggy lump of vegetables in a bowl. All vegetables taste alike. Jason was a chef for years and would cook vegetables al dente and people would send them back and say "These aren't cooked!" They wanted them cooked to mush.

Anonymous said...

what a funny story!

Becky68 said...

Here from Micheles!
Oh that's too funny, I'm not a big mashed potato fan myself but the ex was & 2 out of 3 of my kids are, they critique my work every time I make mashed potatoes from scratch.

Paul said...

An opposite twist. While my daughter was preparing Christmas dinner, she commented how astonished she was when her new groom tossed a box of mashed potatoes into their first shopping cart. (c1992) She didn't know such instant things existed.

See, at our house we cut up and boil the potatoes, then mash them. We eat the skins and all.

You posted a great story.

Chucky said...

Oh man. That's a great story!

I can see why this one would live on for many years to come.

Oh, The Joys said...

I'm dying to eat over now!

Em said... least I'm not throwing away the good part, eh? LOL

And That Chick...yes, I did grow up in the south and my mom has lived her entire life there. All foods - fresh, frozen, canned, etc - were cooked almost beyond recognition. I still don't know why, but that is the southern style for many.

Thomas said...

Meander could make me cook mash potatoes naked, in the middle of my yard, in a snow storm.


Dirk_Star said...

I like the new avatar!

I'm looking for whoever said pregnancy is a beautiful thing.

Have you seen that liar?

They better keep hiding...

CSL said...

Somehow it's the cooking diasters you get remmebered for. My recent potato story. I decided to make mashed potatoes and I saw some beautiful blue potatoes at the Co-op. Wouldn't they make lovely mashed potatoes, and that purpley-blue color meant that had to be better for you than regular potatoes. Turns out, blue potatoes make a gluey substance that resembles Hawaiian poi. After I tossed it, I wished I'd saved it in a tub in case I ever needed to buy spackle.