Mashed Potatoes and the Internet

Today, a Facebook Friend said

 ♥ instant mashed potatoes. Yeah I do.

 Now I haven’t met this person in real life, but one of the wonders of Facebook is that such details aren’t all that important in cultivating a real friendship.  However, I told her that this love of instant mashed potatoes might be grounds for our breaking up.

Mashed potatoes are not just a high-glycemic carbohydrate.  When the tuber is boiled, combined with milk and butter, and mashed, the resultant gestalt is home, family, nurture and nature – in short, love on a plate.  If the potatoes contain a few lumps, the effect is intensified.

Piffle - NOT a great value.

Instant Mashed Potatoes go with take-out Thanksgiving Dinners and gas station champagne.  Just because somebody sells it, doesn’t mean anyone should buy it.  Some things are travesties of the spirit. 

I was a small child during that era that Mad Men is making trendy.  Dinner was at 5:00 and involved meat and potatoes most days of the week.  Sure there were buttered noodles and converted rice as well as fried, baked or boiled potatoes, but mashed potatoes were the norm. 

When we moved to Hawaii in 1967, we were met with the potato problem.  Getting spuds to the islands was expensive and they arrived rotten.  That first box of mashed potatoes entered my mother’s kitchen.  Mashed potatoes were such a norm it didn’t occur to anyone to eliminate such from the menu in the absence of real potatoes.  I suppose if for some reason Thanksgiving found me without a home-cooked feast, I would succumb to Bob Evan’s take-out offering just as I have, on occasion, succumbed to gas station champagne.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and champagne my favorite party drink.  Still.  These are travesties of the spirit.

I cannot stress this enough, I am never going to post in my Facebook status that I  ♥ either one.  Let’s not get silly.

When we were stateside again, the return of real potatoes to the table was a delight.  My brother was beside himself.  He was so young when were in Kaneohe that he had no memory of real potatoes.  He fell in love with Idaho’s export.  The first thing he would do when presented with mashed potatoes was to look for lumps. 

 My mother did not use an electric mixer to mash her potatoes.  We had the tried and true masher.  And those things take work.  Only someone with a great hatred of lumps in the mashed taters would use one of those things long enough to eradicate every potato chunk.  Lumpy potatoes became a sign of non-instant potatoes.  Whoever mashed the potatoes in our house, and we took turns, did so intentionally leaving lumps.  Lumps made my brother happy. 

Lumpy potatoes = good. = great = love =somebody cares about me.

As a family, we talked about this. Lumpy mashed potatoes were explicit in our family culinary lore.  Besides lumpy, we liked our taters with enough backbone  to form a bowl to hold the gravy or the butter – none of this whipped into frothy, drippy frenzy of tortured tubers.  Oh no!  Our potatoes had character and a stiff backbone. 

My dad’s spaghetti sauce was legend.  The homemade pizza pert near.  And we were known for the taters.  Some folks ate them politely, but with varying degrees of puzzlement.  After all, we didn’t look like slovenly folk who would half mash the potatoes and be stingy with the milk.

 As my burgeoning interest in cooking collided with my anachronistic interest in 50’s music, I became obsessed with Dee Dee Sharp’s Mashed Potato Time.  A good friend and I, Charlene, made up our dance we dubbed the La Hava” which we could even do on roller skates.  We had to make up our dance because You Tube didn’t exist and we couldn’t find anybody to teach us the real Mashed Potato

The La Hava was very versatile and worked for lots of the 50’s songs we loved – Leader of the Pack, Why Must I Be a Teenager in Love and The Last Kiss.  We must have been quite a sight – our teeny bopper suburban hippy selves rocking out to my mom’s music.

Joy to the World

But before La Hava and Charlene, there was Nancy and long afternoons in my living room with a Monopoly board, iced tea, and the top-40 radio station.  We were wildly, giggly, obnoxiously in love with Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog as was much of the country.  [I was also wild about Patsy Cline, but Nancy teased me about it and I remember one horrible fight over it.]

I wonder if she remembers the day she and I, my mom and some more of our friends (including Charlene) danced around the living room to Three Dog Night.  My mom had the tambourine.  Nancy and I were using wooden fruit for microphones singing loudly and unabashedly off-key – drunk on happy music and the ridiculous sight of my mother with a tambourine.  Or maybe it was Charlene and I singing off-key.  I have this tiny, incomplete memory that Nancy may have been musically gifted.  [To this day I still don’t know why we had a tambourine – we were not then nor are we now a family gifted with even the semblance of musical ability.]

I found Nancy on Facebook the other day.  Quite by accident.  After 36 years, it will be like building a friendship.  I haven’t spent any of my adult life with people who knew me as a military brat.  Who knew me before life started settling into predictable patterns.  It will be interesting to see how building a friendship with someone I was once close to compares with building one with someone I’ve never actually met. 

Dancing to Mashed Potato Time wouldn’t have been as much fun if we hadn’t had to invent the steps.  I’m grateful You Tube didn’t exist.  I’m delighted that Facebook does so that I could reconnect with Nancy.  I’m also delighted with Facebook’s penchant to bring me friends I’ve never met.  I’ve switched to a Kitchenaid to make my mashed taters these days.  If you time it carefully, the lumps remain.  Technology preserving the old ways in new ways – if you time it carefully.

I can ask Nancy if she remembers.  I can also ask her if she knows where Charlene is.  If the La Hava becomes the next viral line dance, you’ll know we three hooked up in a bar somewhere. 

14 thoughts on “Mashed Potatoes and the Internet

  1. Only another Brat can appreciate this I think… It took my brother YEARS to adjust to whole real milk and real potatoes. To this day, I feel wealthy being able to buy real celery in the grocery store. We lived in the Middle East, mostly, milk in the PX was “reconstituted,” potatoes dehydrated, and celery nonexistant. If someone was flying in from Germany, they would ask whet they could bring back – everyone always said Celery!
    And we, too, like our potatoes a little lumpy, just because.

    • I don’t remember celery being issue. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t. But somewhere along the road, I realized I really like celery. I put it in lots of things and, come to think of it, I can’t believe I didn’t mention my scalloped potatoes (no cheese!) or potato soup – both heavy on onions and celery.

      For the most part, I loved being a Brat. To this day, I can recognize a Brat within 5 minutes of a first conversation. We interact with strangers different than most folk. I was amazed when we moved to West Virginia and the kids I met had been together since preschool. Some had spent time together in the newborn nursery at the local hospital.

      We moved back here when my son was 5 months old. He grew up with the same kids. He grew up in the same house. Though I enjoyed being a Brat, I loved providing him with that stability.

    • I love that mixer. I pined for it for years before I finally broke down and bought it. I don’t cook so much these days, but for most of that mixer’s life it got used a lot and on heavy duty stuff – bread and pasta making. It’s been a champ.

      Your red potatoes sound perfect for leaving the skin on in the mash’d taters. (Those lumpaphobes really have issues with skins in there too.)

  2. Facebook is very cool. My wife and kids are still surprised that I’ve taken to it.
    As for instant mashed. . . I too grew up on nothing but home made, hand mashed potatoes. Sometimes we got plain boiled potatoes.
    Now having said that, for some reason, I really like to make light chicken gravy from a can of broth, fried chicken fillets and instant mashed potatoes.
    I started doing it when I was a single parent with my son. Don’t know why I picked up a box of instant mashed one day.
    I’m with Granny. . . I like my mashed taters with the skins on.

    • Facebook is a phenomena – they should make a movie. For all my disdain of instant potatoes (and rice), I’m a fan of canned gravy. Go figure. I can make gravy from scratch with no problem, but canned is so much easier. [I’m hanging my head in shame.]

  3. erm… i love instant mashed taters too. is this ground for facebook divorce?!?! lol!! but i also like airplane food (back when they fed you) and hospital food so i’m not one to even comment about taste.
    i still use an old timey tater masher when i mash real taters though!!

    • If you like airplane food, you’d love Air France. During a particularly miserable Transatlantic flight following two days of sleep deprivation, they woke me up every 2.73 seconds to feed me. Insistently woke me up. Shook my shoulder and hollered, “Madame? Madame? Omelette? Madame? Brioche?”

  4. Mashed were pretty much special occasion at our house. My daddy liked his taters fried. Scalloped have always been my own fave, with or without cheese. I haven’t had the heart to try boxed but it would be a lot easier and certainly a lot faster… And as far as buttered noodles and rice, bah! We were Americans for heaven sakes and didn’t cotton on to all that foreign food. I never even tasted garlic til I left home. My mom’s idea of salad (and we had it a couple of times a week) was bananas and milk. Thanks for the trip back in time to the ‘supper’ table. We ate at 4:30 pm.

    • My mother, heaven forbid, made scalloped potatoes with canned soup. In my late teens, I took up teaching myself to cook – from scratch. One of my first forays was scalloped potatoes. Oh my God. Lord have mercy! After a few years, I had refined the recipe. It’s a simple statement of fact that I make the best scalloped potatoes on the planet.

      My mom discovered garlic salt in the mid-70s. We were trendy, smelly people.

  5. Funny..I just whipped up instant mashed taters over the week-end! I never buy them, but feeding 30 people, I thought it would be a heck of a lot easier than peeling a 10lb bag of Idahos! It was..but I still have a half gallon in my fridge..guess I will use them to hang wallpaper,lol!
    btw LOVED the video..brought back fun memories 🙂

  6. Pingback: The Mailbox, Derecho, Dumpster and Beetle | W. Va. Fur and Root

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