When I was growing up, mashed potatoes were a regular feature of supper.
But regular, I mean several times a week.
Every single week.
Even at a young and tender age, I knew how to make mashed potatoes. Or Smushed Potatoes. Or Smash.
You took the potato pan down cellar to where the – was it 10 or was it 20 pound? – bag of potatoes was. The bag was really heavy paper and had a little netted window in the front, and was secured by a twisted metal clip. Sometime the potatoes had sprouts, but not usually. You put potatoes in the pan to the place where the screws that held the handle on came to, that was the potato line. Then you took them upstairs and emptied the pan, and rinsed it out because potatoes are dirty.
Then the potatoes needed to be peeled with the potato peeler, and then they needed a good rinse, because potatoes are dirty because they grow under the dirt, don’t you know, and THEN they had to be cut into like size pieces so that they’d all finish cooking at the same time. Water to cover, a little salt, and then the lid goes on. All on the back burner and the heat on high. When they start to boil, the heat is turned down so that the lid rattles at just the right rattle for the potatoes a-cooking and all is right with the world way.
When the rattling has gone on long enough, time to test a potato to see if it’s down. A fork should go in easily. The whole thing gets dumped out into the colander in the sink. A good size piece of margarine (we really didn’t use that much butter – it was oleo. Nana used butter, so we had butter when Nana visited or when we went to her house, otherwise margarine) went into the pan, the hot potatoes in after, and then the masher came out.
And while the masher was mashing, a little milk, and then a little more milk. Because it was the olden days, milk was just plain old milk – no 1% or 2 % or fat-free or even whole – milk was milk and the milkman brought it.
Salt and pepper, maybe a little more milk and when it was just right, swooshed into the serving bowl, graced with a serving spoon, the pan lid placed on top to keep it warm and on the table it went.
Except the parts where it was too heavy for me to lift with both potato and water in the pan, and I couldn’t reach the knobs to actually turn on the stove, and I’d have had to stand on a chair to reach into the pan with the masher, which was too dangerous and so it was not done, I had totally mastered the art of mashed potatoes when I was 7 ½ .
By the time I was 10, I was totally bored with mashed potatoes. I would hang out as they were cooking to pull a few pieces out of the colander so I could have plain boiled potatoes with salt and pepper.
Fast forward to when my son was 6 and he wanted mashed potatoes, because I had never made them for him. I realized that I only knew how to make mash for a crowd, and 2 was not a crowd.And then my potatoes kept coming out pasty, not mashed….what to do? Where to turn?
Why Martha Stewart, of course.
She called them
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
of course. But they are very good directions for very good mashed potatoes.
Serves 4-6 or 2, when one is a growing boy.
2# Russet, Yukon Gold or long white potatoes
1 Tbl salt
1 cup milk (or cream or a mix)
4 Tbl butter
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Peel, rinse and cut potatoes into 1 ½ inch thick slices
- Cover with cold water in a pan, add salt. Bring to a simmer.
- Keep potatoes at a simmer until a knife slips in and out easily.
- Drain potatoes in a colander.
- Heat milk in another, small, saucepan.
- Mash until lumps have disappeared.
- Stir with a wooden spoon for one minute.
- Incorporate butter.
- Drizzle in hot milk, mixing and whisking.
- Add seasonings, continue whisking.
- Serve immediately.
Martha Stewart Living November 1998.p.96.
Finally – potatoes that come out smushed and not wallpaper paste!
And as for Doing the Mashed Potato
I didn’t realize that Nat Kendrick and the Swans was really James Brown.