With the onset of the new depression, one must find ways to cut costs. Although I was smart and never invested, I know that eventually as sure as the Earth has eyes, that I will have to tighten my belt too during these times of economic crisis. During the first Great Depression, the Irish side of my family stepped in and rescued hungry bellies– not through stockpiles of gold and silver, but through common sense. My family survived on potatoes during the depression, so it seems fitting that once again, my family will stay afloat upon the tuber.
Unlike rice or maccaroni products, the potato does not cause obesity when eaten in excess, unless of course, one uses too much margarine like I do when mashing them with milk. There is more potassium in a potato than in a banana, and just one serving of the cholesterol-free vegetable offers 45% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
My family remained poor after the Great Depression ended. Perhaps the potato was to blame. We continued to grow fields of potatoes into the late eighties, despite the fact that by then, they were inexpensive to purchase and instant varieties were as easy to buy as shares in General Motors. Unlike other foods, one never grows tired of eating potatoes, especially when they are mashed. In Irish families, the potato is quite often the first real food eaten by toothless infants. Having eaten them since I was a baby and still on the bottle, I find myself cooking them often. As a kid, we had potatoes for supper every night; not for their succulence, but for the way the vegetable sticks to the ribs.
Having lived with Black men for all of my adult life, I have found myself explaining my culture and its connection to the potato time and time again to the lovers who have fallen for me and my mashed potatoes–
“Why not just cook rice?” they have asked. “Are you going to sit there and peel all of those potatoes?”
“It’s really not that hard and it will only take a few minutes,” I say.
They’d blush when I’d pull out my hand-held electric mixer and toss in an entire stick of butter to my chunks of boiled potatoes, whipping our family staple to the consistency of sweet potato pie in a matter of seconds. Every man who has ever lived with me only to be kicked out after I have grown tired of them, like tomatoes, has taken a part of my culture with them– the love and respect for the potato.
“Black people eat too much rice,” I have explained to my boyfriends, “this is why you all have such big asses.”
They’d just laugh and remind me that I got a lot going on back there too.
Lovers have grown too attached to me and my ability to cook. Eventually I would have to let them go. Saying good-bye was never easy though, especially after all the last spoonfuls of spuds were shared from a wooden spoon. Kicking them out was like sorting through the potato bin, weeding out the bad ones, so that their rottenness would not spread. Like apples, one potato can ruin the bunch. When it came time to set them free, I’d make this dish and never have to say a word.
“No mashed potatoes tonight, sexy?” They’d ask.
“No, master,” I’d reply. “These are scalloped…”
“Chaz’s Scalloped Lovers”
1 chopped onion
Half Stick of Margarine
1/4 cup of flour
2 ½ cups of milk
5 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
Melt the butter. Toss in the onion and cook for four minutes. Stir in the flour and a little salt and pepper. Add the milk. Cook and stir until bubbles form and pop.
Place half the potatoes in a greased casserole dish. Pour in half the Chaz white sauce. Add the remaining potatoes and cover with the remaining milk mixture.
Bake for 45 minutes covered, then uncover and cook a half-hour more.
You’ll never be depressed with this dish, but your ex’s will and potatoes, like men, come a dime a dozen.