Sunday, October 18, 2009

Everybody loves mashed potato!

This is a blogged response to a post over at No Love Sincerer*; an extended comment, if you like. It put me in mind of a mashed-potato-related incident in my own history, and I'd like to share it here. It isn't actually my incident, and I wasn't even there at the time, so I'll do the protagonist the favour of keeping him (or her, of course) completely, utterly and totally anonymous in order to spare her (or, indeed, him) the shame that may result from the tale I am about to tell**. But I do see myself as being officially involved, as I was instrumental in solving...

The Case of Why the Mashed Potato was Weird
It was a cold, dark night, and I was talking (via email, if my memory serves me well) to my friend, who for the sake of argument I shall call Robin***. We were indulging in our usual repertoire of banter, debate and irreverent nonsense, and the subject of his surviving an entire week at home alone whilst his parents were on holiday inevitably shoulder barged its way into the discussion. It seemed that on one evening, tired of morsels of food packaged in polystyrene and acquired from the local chippy, Robin*** decided to have a go at cooking something. He decided upon the classic British dish that is bangers and mash, and set to work.

Upon completion, Robin*** confided to me, the bangers were done almost to perfection, if a little on the crisp side, but the mash was... weird.
'In what way?' I enquired.
'I don't know... just... not the same as they are when my mum makes them. Not unpleasant, really, but... strange.'

Now, I'm no culinary expert, but I do feel that I have a fairly solid handle on the process of making mashed potato, even if I don't often actually perform the necessary incantations, so I suggested that he went through his experience step by step, and I'd see if I could spot any glaring errors in his recipe. He agreed:
1. Peel potatoes.
2. Wash potatoes.
All good so far, as far as I can see.
3. Chop potatoes into quarters.
 Sensible move: reduces cooking time, helps to ensure even cookage and aids the mashing process.
4. Rinse potatoes once more for good measure.
Steady on there, mate. Don't want to go making extra work for yourself! What are you worried about? Solanum flu?
5. Place potatoes in saucepan.
Still tallying with my mashed-taters recipe, old chum.
6. Pour oil into saucepan.
 ... huh?
6. Pour oil into saucepan.
... um... huh?
6. Pour oil into saucepan.
You did say oil, then. Er... how much oil?
Just enough to cover all of the potatoes.
And then what did you do?
Cooked them.
On the hob? Submerged in oil? in a saucepan?
I think I'm beginning to see why your mashed potatoes turned out a little different from those your mum makes. Can I ask what the result was like?
A lot more soggy than my mum's, and a different colour- golden. And they were crispy on the outside, too.
Right. What did you do with them at this point.
Mashed them, and served them with the sausages, and ate them.
And I can only assume from the very fact that we're having this conversation that you didn't die as a result, which deserves congratulations in itself.

I went on to point out the error that, in my estimation, he had made, and outlined steps that he could take to avoid making the same error during future mashed potato making attempts. The event happened a few years ago now, but it still gets brought up whenever his parents go away without him**** and, indeed, whenever self-cooking***** enters any particular conversation.

Well, I find it funny.

To end, here's something from my youth...

The fact that that video played a part in my upbringing may explain a lot.

* View, follow, befriend, etc.

** See, Robin, I'm quite nice really. I apologise if any of the following is in any way inaccurate or didn't actually happen, but I can't find the original email and I'm writing for a public (if very small) audience, so feel I should make an effort as far as embellishments are concerned.

*** An assumed name.

**** They need to, now and then.

***** That's cooking for oneself, not the cooking of oneself.