I was raised on mashed potatoes and it's apparent that I ate them. But I left northwest Iowa for someplace racier, south central Minnesota, and didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about them. With every year away my culinary world expanded. I discovered midwest Chinese food and the Gyro and spices beyond salt and pepper. Once on my own in southern Iowa, I saw fit to spend my paycheck on radical things like fresh-from-Mexico vegetables and Thai fish sauce and I learned how to make spring rolls. I could go for long stretches without eating mashed potatoes and my life seemed just fine. Every town I moved to introduced me to people who cooked other things- their grandma's Italian dishes, their mom's turkey burgers (turkey-in a burger?), peppers that were meant to be HOT to add kick and not just a garnish. Olive oil became my cream of mushroom soup and sea salt my onion soup mix. I learned to roast the most offensive vegetable and people would swoon. Kale chips anyone?
Then I had kids and for a time, Thing 1 was game for most everything. Chickpeas in curry did not faze her....until she had Grandma's mashed potatoes. It was like the heavens had opened up and poured fourth all that is right in the world. Lump-free and rich with butter and homemade gravy, it finally dawned on me that I can't make gravy. And truth be told, I don't like making mashed potatoes. I would cagily invite people for holidays who make mashed potatoes and gravy and celebrate their participation in holiday preparations.
Thing 2 came along and the battle cry became louder. "Why don't you make Grandma's world-famous mashed potatoes?" Clearly, their worlds were too small or I had to get busy. I would try. Many times, I skipped the gravy purporting that the amount of butter and cream used to disguise lumps and improve flavor couldn't possibly be made better. Wrong. I was fooling no one. They would eat them but rarely take seconds. Grandma would come or we would go and they would gulp away as if trying to savor the memory for future subpar stand-ins.
But we found ourselved alone on Easter and everyone wanted tradition- ham and mashed potatoes and gravy. "Are you kidding?" they squealed. "You can't have pasta on Easter!" So I went at it again and finally...there was success. I farmed out the gravy to Big Man, and it too was a hit.
I still don't like making mashed potatoes--and the appeal is not completely understood. But their faces were happy and it seems I rose a few notches in their book. "Mom," said Thing 1. "You can really cook." I didn't dignify that comment with a response, but I did soak in their pleasure. I hope the carb buzz lingers since I have no plans for a repeat performance soon.
But we do have some trips to Grandma's planned.