Posted tagged ‘potatoes’

“Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody.”

March 4, 2018

My hopes are high that Coffee will be here tomorrow. If not, remember to go to www.keepthecoffeecoming.blogspot.com as I’ll be waiting there for you.

Today is damp but lighter than it has been. The sun is working to get out of the clouds. I’m its most ardent cheerleader. There is still wind which makes the day feel even colder. I think it rained during the night as the sides of the street were still wet this morning when I got the papers, the dry papers. I can’t fault a day which starts with dry papers.

When I was a kid, Sunday was always boring. It followed the same regimen every week. Eat breakfast, put on church clothes, walk to church, go home and hang around until Sunday dinner, the most lavish meal of the week. It always included a roast of some sort, potatoes and vegetables. The potatoes were mashed and the vegetables, except for the carrots, came from cans. Those fresh vegetables, the carrots and the potatoes, were always boiled. We never had salad, and we never had bread on the table. A roast of beef as my grandmother called it is still my favorite.

My mother grocery shopped on Friday nights. As she had no license, my father drove her. They’d return with a trunk load of filled paper bags. The only foods we, my brother, sisters and I, cared about were the cookies. We knew they’d be Oreos and sometimes chocolate chip cookies or some other kind. We’d want them right away, and my mother would warn us that once they were gone, they’d be no more. We were kids. We were in the moment. We wanted the cookies.

I have grown my palate since I was a kid. Canned vegetables will never grace (sort of grace) my table. I like to cook potatoes all different ways, but I love mashed potatoes covered in gravy the most. I love carrots, and I experiment when I cook them. The last recipe called for ginger. My favorite is honeyed carrots. I use the baby carrots still with their greenery.

I just heard a loud crash which seemed to come from my deck. I ran outside but saw nothing except the man in the house behind mine burning leaves in a barrel. What I saw made me laugh. The wind is taking the burning leaves, and they are falling on the carpet of leaves in the guy’s yard. Small fires start, and he goes around with his rake putting the fires out. Maybe this will teach him why burning leaves is illegal.

“Part of growing up was learning not to be quite that honest – learning when it was better to lie, rather than to hurt someone with the truth.”

February 10, 2018

I saw the sun this morning. It appeared for about five minutes. It was as bright and beautiful as I remember. The weather calls for 48˚ and clouds, but we do have a bit of a breeze, always chilly this time of year.

The street was wet this morning as was my walkway. It must have rained, but I didn’t hear it. We have those whitish clouds again.

I don’t have to go anywhere today. I could go to the dump, but I don’t feel like hauling the trash to the car. It is sitting on the kitchen floor. I walk around the two bags. I can’t put them outside as critters open the bags and trash gets all over the deck which I have to pick up. It’s gross with coffee grounds, cat food and garbage. I could put them in the trunk, but my car begins to smell. I have to go tomorrow as the dump then closes for three days. I do better with deadlines, and I don’t want the trash sitting there until Thursday.

When I was a kid, my mother told us all sorts of lies, for our own good perhaps but still lies. Take the gum lie. I believed that it took seven years in my stomach before the gum dissolved so I didn’t swallow my gum. I didn’t want some giant elastic like wad sitting there for years. I think my mother believed the gum story too, but I know she didn’t believe the lie about ears and potatoes. When I was a little kid, I spent some time at the bathroom mirror contorting myself so I could see if potatoes were growing in my ears. Rather than risk it, I let my mother clean them. I never liked it when she did, but I liked the idea of potatoes growing there even less. There was also the watermelon seed garden growing in my stomach and my going blind from sitting close to the TV or not eating my carrots. I never went out in the cold or to bed with wet hair. The consequences were life threatening. I never crossed my eyes either. I couldn’t imagine living that way the rest of my life. Growing up had its own risks back then.

” It’s Christmas. Nothing bad is going to happen on Christmas!”

December 21, 2017

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter. The days will start getting longer but we’ll hardly notice. It will still be dark early. I guess it’s a psychological thing, the idea that winter is very slowly losing its grip. Today is cold. Gracie and I were out early as she had another acupuncture treatment. She did well. When we got home, we both went to back to sleep. I just woke up. She’s still sleeping.

I’m going to make some cookies today. I did all my Christmas food shopping yesterday. I also made two other stops for dog food and Christmas candy. For Christmas dinner, the menu is set. We’re having bone-in rib roast. I have to pick the meat up on Christmas Eve. The rest of the menu will give our plates some color, in keeping with the season: white, green and orange, better known as potatoes, carrots and green beans.

My whole house feels like Christmas. The aroma of my Christmas tree fills the rooms. It makes me smile, and I tell the air how wonderful it is. I don’t even pretend I’m talking to Gracie.

I’m watching a Christmas movie, and it isn’t very good. The elves are tall and have names like George and Mindy. Their acting is over the top, hammy. The main characters are a family of a mother and two kids. The father passed away. One kid loves Christmas while the other is obnoxious and angry. She needs a slap. The mother is sweet and does her best only to be rebuffed by her daughter. The only parts of this movie I really enjoy are the scenes of the town and the snow. It looks like an old town with lots of brick buildings. Snow is everywhere. I don’t know why I’m still watching. I know how this horrible movie ends. It’s a Christmas movie so the ending will be happy and even the rude, obnoxious daughter will love Christmas again. Maybe I should watch Krampus again though even that has a happy ending.

“It was Sunday morning, and old people passed me like sad grey waves on their way to church.”

October 15, 2017

I’m wondering where the sun is hiding. The day is damp and cloudy. It’s a quiet day, no breeze rustles the leaves and no voices are loud enough to be heard. I have to go out and do a couple of errands later and tonight is game night. That’s like a full day for me.

When I was a kid, the expectations for Sunday were pretty much nonexistent. It was a nothing day much the same week after week. It started with church. The only unknown was which mass I’d attend. Would I go early with my dad, the usher, or later by myself or with my brother? Sunday dinner was the biggest meal of the week. It was always a roast, sometimes a roast beef and other times a whole chicken. It was the one meal all week where we all sat down to eat together though my mother sometimes stood by the counter to eat. On weekdays my dad was late getting home from work so he was never there for dinner. We were usually watching TV when he got home.

Once in a while, on a Sunday afternoon, we visited my grandparents in the city. I was amazed by the city. Houses were close together. The Italian bakeries sold pizza. A house down the street sold Italian ice through an open window. On the corner of my grandparents’ street was a private club. My uncle was a member. I remember going there once for a family party.

If we didn’t go out to visit, we’d sit around watching TV until my dad took over and turned to a football game. That sent us to the kitchen to play a board game or down the cellar to play. If I had a book, I’d go read it in my room away from the noise. My mother cooked in the kitchen. She peeled potatoes and opened cans of vegetables. We usually ate around two. Most times there was no special dessert. We’d grab cookies.

Sunday night we’d watch a bit of TV then it was early to bed because of school the next day. We always grumbled. That never got us anywhere except upstairs to bed at our regular time.

“… food is not simply organic fuel to keep body and soul together, it is a perishable art that must be savoured at the peak of perfection.”

March 19, 2015

Last night my friends and I sat around the table enjoying each other’s company. We also shared a wonderful dinner, my St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, a day late maybe but still a tasty dinner to celebrate the occasion. Last night was also bitterly cold. Today is sunny and warmer, but it is in no way warm enough to welcome spring.

The paper today said this winter and the first two months of 2015 were the hottest on record globally, with a chilly east coast sticking out like a cold thumb in a toastier world. Yup, that would be me.

This morning I could go back in time. On TV I had my choice of Daniel Boone, Dragnet, McHale’s Navy or Quincy. All I was missing was a bowl of cereal, my Rice Krispies, a seat on the floor in front of the TV, and my mother telling me to move away from the screen or I’d go blind.

Yesterday the window on my back door got steamy while dinner was cooking. I was reminded of the kitchen in the duplex where we lived until my sister was born. The kitchen was small, almost a galley kitchen. At one end of it was a window and the table and chairs were in front of the window. Every night my mother cooked supper and every night that window got steamy. I’d sit at the table and use my sleeve to clear the window so I could look outside. I’d watch my mother cook. She’d stand over the stove stirring whatever was in the pots and would sometimes open the oven to check on the meat. I know potatoes were in one of those pots. We always had potatoes.

Today is an empty dance card. I’m glad as I’m tired from the last couple of days of kitchen duty, of setting the table, peeling veggies and cleaning up after dinner. All that’s left for today is to empty the dishwasher and take a nap.

“May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, May good luck pursue you each morning and night.”

March 17, 2015

We’re back to rainy and bleak. We’re also back to cold as it will get down to 18˚ tonight. This melt and freeze cycle is creating  potholes all over the roads. I’ve been lucky so far as I’ve seen the holes in time to avoid them. Some people weren’t so lucky as a few hub caps are lying near the biggest holes.

What’s left of the snow is ugly. More of it will disappear because of the rain. All the roads are finally clear of the icy ruts. I’m just hoping the combination of the clear roads, rain and 18˚ won’t cause black ice.

My mother, father, two aunts, my 80-year-old grandfather and I visited Ireland together. It was my second trip there. It was the first for everyone else. I loved traveling with my parents and my grandfather was a trooper. He kept right up with us. One aunt always went with the flow; however, the other aunt I would have sold to the Irish Travellers whose caravans we saw throughout Ireland. She had a couple of heavy suitcases filled with enough clothes for an around the world trip. Every night my dad had to haul them out of the van to her room and then back to the van in the morning. We generally stayed only one night in each spot, usually a B&B, so why she needed both suitcases I never understood. I did ask and she said she didn’t know we would be stopping night by night. She thought we’d stay in one place. That still didn’t explain the amount of clothes and why both suitcases every night. I suggested she bring in what she needed just for the night and the next day, and she got huffy. That aunt is only five months younger than I am; she is number 8, the baby of my mother’s family. That gave her a strange sense of entitlement. Huffy should have been her middle.

My father loved boiled dinners, corned beef and cabbage for those of you living outside of New England. My mother would make the dinner a couple of times a year and always on St. Patrick’s Day. My favorite memory is one dinner when the potatoes disappeared. My mother was filling my dad’s plate with the carrots, cabbage, onions and meat. She used her spoon to hunt for the potatoes. There were none. She saw a couple of lumps of what might have been potatoes floating but that was the only sighting. When she brought dinner to my dad, he wanted to know right away where the potatoes, his favorites, were. My mother admitted she thought they disintegrated. My dad rushed out and hunted through the pan. He didn’t find any either. It became a family legend: the year of no potatoes.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

“Well, many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese–toasted, mostly…”

November 14, 2013

The weather is quirky. Snow fell the other day, but today and the next few days will be in the 50’s, tolerable weather. The nights will be cold but that’s November, and that’s why I have a comforter on the bed and animals who snuggle.

The bird feeders need filling and the red spawn needs to be shot. It has defeated my squirrel buster feeder by being small. It jumps from the deck to the feeder, grabs some seed then sits on the deck rail to eat it right in full view of me. I run out to scare it away but it knows when to come back. I’m thinking some acorns, a bit of irony probably lost on the spawn, or small rocks as ammo stored upstairs. I’ll open a window and aim though the sound of the acorn hitting the deck should sent that spawn running. He knows he is targeted. Think hose and last summer.

Much to do today. My friends are coming to dinner, a very late birthday dinner. They both have their birthdays in September and mine was August, and we have yet to give each other our gifts. I have to shop so last night, to save time from today, I set out all the dishes and silverware. We’re having pork tenderloin with an herb crust, smashed potatoes baked in the oven and glazed carrots. I’ll make my Moroccan appetizer, muhammara, and put out cheese, to me the most versatile food of all.

I am a cheese lover except for gorgonzola and blue. They even smell bad to me and blue always looks as if it has been around too long to eat. Cheese is a staple in my fridge as many of my meals are just cheese with bread or crackers. Brie is a huge favorite.

Ghana has no cheese because it has no milk. Ghana has cows but no Ghanaians drink milk. When I went back to Ghana, I was forced to use evaporated milk in my instant coffee just as I did in 1969. Ghana is not a place for coffee lovers or cheese lovers for that matter. If I were in the Peace Corps there now and still lived in Bolga, I’d find the Fulanis who tend the cows, buy milk from them and make my own cheese. It isn’t difficult.

In 1969, I figured everything was just part of the experience as did most of my friends, but when we got together, food always became part of the conversation. We all mused about what we missed the most. In Accra, we’d spend money at Kingsway Department Store to buy bruni food, white people’s food, to bring home. We’d travel to Lome, Togo because you could get ice cream, pastries and yup, even cheese. Lome was a volunteer’s paradise of food. One wonderful memory is when a bunch of us from Ghana were together in the Peace Corps hostel in Lome, something that didn’t happen often. We had all bought stuff to bring home, special stuff you couldn’t find in Ghana. Well, we had a huge party for no reason except we were together, had food and loved parties. We ended up eating just about everything.

“A clever cook can make good meat of a whetstone.”

September 30, 2012

The rain continues. It stopped yesterday for most of the day, but the sky never cleared and the dampness never went away. I don’t know when the rain started up again last night, but it was steady when I woke up. I could hear it falling on the roof. I thought my bed perfectly cozy, but I reluctantly got up, dragged myself downstairs, made coffee and went outside to get the papers.

Yesterday I went to pick up a few things at the store, and that was my singular accomplishment for the entire day. I didn’t even make my bed. The animals got fed, and I had hummus for lunch and an egg sandwich for dinner so none of us starved.

When I was growing up, Sunday dinner was always the highlight of the week as it was the one meal when roast beef might just be the main course. The rest of the week was chicken or hamburger and the hot dogs I mentioned yesterday. My mother was a whiz at hamburger. She cooked it so many different ways. Her American chop suey was a favorite as was her hamburger with bean sprouts and soy sauce served over chow mein noodles. I don’t think that dish has a name. We always thought it was Chinese food. My mother made the best meat loaf, and we loved it frosted with mashed potatoes which were then browned in the oven. Other times she’d put ketchup and then bacon on the top. She had to make sure there was enough bacon for all of us or a fight would ensue, one of yelling not punching. We ate a lot of hamburger, a cheap way to feed 4 kids, but we never realized how often. All the meals seemed different and they were our favorites.

No meal, according to my father, was complete without potatoes, usually mashed potatoes, though once in a while my mother would bake them, but because we didn’t like the skins, we only dug a little so most times we left a lot of potato behind. My favorite was the mashed potatoes with peas as the vegetable. I tolerated wax and yellow beans, French green beans and carrots.

When I was leaving for Peace Corps training, my mother asked me what I’d like for our last meal together for a long while. I asked for roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes and peas, a Sunday dinner, a family dinner.