Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Planning a 16-year-old's Birthday Dinner, I Arouse Passions Among Friends Over Mashed Potatoes

Our older son turned 16 today.

For his birthday dinner, he asked me to serve the following: steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli. Believe it or not, I never have made mashed potatoes before. So I took to my facebook pages, and asked local friends and blogger friends how they prepare theirs. What lively conversation ensued.

Cari Cartwright Donaldson of Connecticut Clan Donaldson fame was amazed I never have prepared mashed potatoes. "AAACK! You've never made mashed potatoes?!?!?!?"

Nope. You see, my mom didn't serve them when we were growing up and I never considered making them myself.

"That's tragic," quipped Simcha Fisher, who's raising nine children in New Hampshire. "It's like hearing you didn't have socks or blankets when you were little."

Cari regained her composure long enough to comment again. "You're going to die of heart disease when you hear how we make them: peel potatoes. cube them. boil until tender. Drain. mash. then add the following in whatever amounts sound good that day: butter, milk, sour cream, onion powder, salt and parmesan cheese."

Since I was a mashed-potato-making virgin, I decided to follow a recipe recommended by bloggy friend Amy Elliot: "Pioneer housewife. Mashed potatoes of loveliness."

Now, I used to subscribe to Pioneer Woman's blog. (That's the blog you meant Amy, right?) But I became so intimidated by her suggestions for elaborate hearty breakfasts for children living on huge swaths of land in the country. This is a woman (pictured at right) with a TV show who writes about cows in the creek. God bless her, but I cannot relate. Here in New Jersey I am raising boys who breakfast on microwaved oatmeal not far from the NJ Turkpike and a handful of Superfund sites.

But since Amy is a woman of good sense and a Canadian to boot, I decided to take her suggestion tonight and make Pioneer Woman's "Delicious, creamy mashed potatoes."  After work, I stopped by Stop and Shop. I bought a five pound bag of Yukon Gold, a potato masher, half and half and cream cheese. The mashed potatoes I made from this recipe are gone. Gone I tell you!

What was so interesting about my post is how many friends make mashed potatoes, how passionate they are about their recipes. Who knew?

"The best mashed potatoes --in my opinion --are the simplest: mash the potatoes with milk, butter and salt," wrote my friend Susan, a college professor of political theory.

"I also add a little sour cream," wrote Gwen, a legal aid lawyer. "makes them richer, and a little tangy."

"Butter, sour cream and salt," said Barbara, a college administrator and a high school classmate. "And whip them."

Suzanne is a retired friend, a grandma in Vermont. "You can either boil them on a stove or bake them in the microwave then peel the skins off...boil on the stove peeled and cubed, drain...put back in the same pan and mash...hint: some people save a little of the cooking water to add to the mashing..,like a quarter cup...but still use cream and butter!

Cheryl, a high school friend who lives in Lower Manhattan, said to use baking potatoes.

My sister-in-law, a nutritionist in Colorado, sounded appalled.  "no no no bakers," she said. "you must use yukon golds." (Note to Deb: I did)

You can follow more of the conversation on Rambling Follower's facebook page or you can keep up the conversation in the comment box below.


  1. I guess I missed all that potato talk, which is just as well because I would have gotten lost in it and done almost no work!

    Yummy- all the recipes are good. I never make my mashed potatoes the same way twice. They are much beloved around here, but we don't have them too often.

    And happy birthday to a fine young man!

  2. This is a great piece, Alison, because it brings women together over a simple food. Mashed potato community. I saw your post yesterday and wanted to respond, but it was an insane day so I skipped. I stopped using all that dairy deliciousness years ago when I started keeping kosher. You can't mix the cow with the meat. So, believe it or not, by using some of the potato water, olive oil, and salt I get delicious results. The family eats them up. Me, I prefer sweet potatoes, so don't usually eat much of the white. Oh, and happy birthday, Gabe! Elissa

    1. Thanks, Elissa! You know, Lucky and I are both dairy allergic, so knowing how to make them without all that dairy is superhelpful. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Oh my goodness thank you for having the good sense to realize that I meant Pioneer Woman!