The most wholesome, delicious potatoes I’ve tasted in a long time came from the Minnesota Garlic Festival this summer. It was pouring down rain when Liz and I ducked under a canopy that led to a small booth of farmer’s produce. On the table were two paper dishes of homegrown potatoes. One held a buttery Yukon Gold variety. The other, Russet baking potatoes about the size of a garlic, so clean and shorn it was hard to believe they emerged from under the Earth.
We came home with the baking potatoes, sliced them up, boiled them and served them with butter and pork chops a few days later. I’m a big potato lover. In fact, anything carbohydrate hits the spot. Potatoes remind me of Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl days but maybe that’s because I was watching a documentary on him at 2am Monday night because I couldn’t sleep.
Last night for dinner, we had a couple of steaks grilled on our new Grill It! from the Minnesota State Fair and microwaved Bob Evans mashed potatoes from Byerly’s. The last time I was at a Bob Evans was with my brother after he picked me up at the Baltimore airport. On the drive back to Harrisburg, we stopped at a Bob Evans and had dinner in between catching a few geocaches. I’m sure I must have ordered mashed potatoes.
I remember Granny’s mashed potatoes, my paternal grandmother who lived in Morristown, Tennessee. That woman could cook. I was probably in high school the last time I saw her. But it’s the holiday dinners at her home when I was a much younger child that I remember best. I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted mashed potatoes like that anywhere else in the world. She also canned her own green beans; she’d sit on the porch and snap them one by one into a glass bowl. Always served with butter. In the South, vegetables were always served dripping with real butter.
Mashed potatoes are comfort food to me. They are cheap and filling. You can buy the real deal or microwave them in tater tot form, bake them au gratin, shred them into hash browns, or scrub their skins with a vegetable brush and pop them into the oven or microwave to bake, then slather with butter and sour cream.
There is nothing as flexible as the iconic potato. And if you free associate the word “potato,” that tricky deadly Nightshade can take you all the way to Ireland, or sliding down the back steps of the political campaign of Dan Quayle. Now that’s a versatile tuber.
-related to Writing Topic post: I Found Potatoes In My Pantry (& They Scared The Hell Out Of Me)