As I'm dicing these russets to make homemade mashed potatoes I started thinking about how fortunate I am to have the time and resources to make homemade mashed potatoes at all. I'm dicing and rinsing and thinking about the salty butter, the creamy sour cream and the sprinkles of parsley. My thoughts drift away reminding me I'm gonna' have to dig underneath the cabinet near the toaster to find the beaters. I'm thinking of all of this and then I think about my mom.
My mother had me when she was 40 years old. Not a big deal now, but in December 1971, it was quite the scandal. She lost friends over it. Even though she was married and had two daughters 8 and 11 when I was born, it was just unheard of to start a family again at her age. Anyway, by the time I was five my sisters were thinking about boys and driving. When I was 10, they were in college or had jobs. You get the point, when my mom's friends were beginning retirement and had their kids off and out the door, my mom was still raising a little girl.
So here's what I want to tell you. She and dad would get invitations to parties or dinner with friends. Occasionally, they'd get a sitter but depending on the couple, they'd say, "bring little Eleanor along." One night, they did and I remembered it while I rinsed these potatoes.
When my mom was chatting in the den, I crawled up on a kitchen bar stool in her friend's kitchen. She moved from stove to oven and back again stirring and checking on the meal. It smelled so good and warm and homey. I sat up and paid attention when she started beating the potatoes with the mixer.
"What are you making?"
She looked at me puzzled but patient. "Mashed potatoes. Do you like mashed potatoes?"
"Oh yum! Yes! I love mashed potatoes! I've just never seen them made that way."
One of her eyebrows raised up and a weird smile inched up on the side of her mouth.
She stopped moving her hand mixer.
"How does your mom make mashed potatoes?"
"Umm, I'm not sure but they come from a blue box."
As embarrassing as that probably was for my mom, she never let me know it. You know why? Because she was and still is a badass.
She was raising three girls when her friends were done, she was still helping with homework when her friends were having dinner parties, she was working full time but still had a meal on the table at 5:45. Yes, she might have cut corners with instant potatoes but she was tough as nails and soft as a church hymn.
Thanks for having me mom.
You're still the best cook I know.