Saturday, October 14, 2006

Potato Memories

My brothers, sister and I were the neighborhood hellions. We were surrounded by the good Mormon family, the two Irish Catholic families, and the Jehovah Witnesses down the street. Each family vied to do their duty and get those "hellion" children to church...by golly! They were aided and abetted in their conquest by my mother, who scoffed at their conquests, and dug in her garden to compensate for lack of formal spiritual training of her children. Her spiritual revelations? The tip of a green onion breaking the earth, spinach spreading green down an orderly row, or knowing that a motley clump of potatoes lurked beneath the earth awaiting a good yanking.

My mother made sure we had a vegetable garden. We grew green onions, lettuce, spinach, green beans, beefstake tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, pear tomatoes, more tomatoes, and potatoes. She canned much of what she grew and placed the potatoes in a dark place to await potato winters. Life took on greater meaning when my mother added live chickens to the mix of our household. Now we could dodge pecking territorial chickens while we gathered eggs to add tp our staple dishes.


My mother, not very skilled in domestic duties, (our house, the equivalent of Hurricane Katrina, lanquished under lack of care), or proficent in social skills, (her derisive laugh could drown out political opposition like a chain saw could mow down a redwood, with Butterfly Moonbeam perched in its branches), nevertheless tried her best to nourish her family under the severe restraints of no money whatsoever.

One meal my mother prepared with sublime care, was eggs and potatoes. We had eggs and potatoes quite often, especially towards the end of the month. We ate potatoes garnished with tomatoes in season, or chopped onions and garlic. We ate eggs and potatoes for breakfast when oatmeal ran out, eggs and potatoes for dinner when all else ran out. We fried potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We practiced making homemade potato chips, mashed potatoes, and boiled potatoes with butter and parsley. We even earned extra credit in elementary school by creating potato prints aided by my mother, the artist.

One would think that we would detest eggs and potatoes after a lifetime of such a mundane dish, but I think of my mother often while stirring potatoes. I think of a hardscrabble life and the resources she drew from to sustain a family of four children. I think of such a humble vegetable, the potato, boring brown and dusty, and how it filled the bellies of a family through hard times and cold winters.

One of the last memories I have of my mother is coming home after a night of work, to find that in her frailness, she had prepared a dish of fried potatoes for my husband. It wasn't a fancy dish, but it was a sustaining dish; potatoes sliced in slick white discs by arthritic fingers, chopped savory onions and garlic sprinkled throughout, stirred to just the right crispness; her way of wanting to contribute to our household and somehow bless my husband with her offering. He stated that they were the best potatoes he had ever eaten.

Potatoes. What a humble vegetable. Brown. Mealy. Disdained by thin people. A vegetable that fits neatly in the palm, paring knife slicing through. Thin slices, enough to feed a family. Enough to make a memory.

Go check out Rebecca's Potato Fest

8 Comments:

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a thin person, and I love potatoes. I don't disdain them. Why do people think that thin people don't have to work at being thin, --that it just comes naturally? That we are not even tempted by fattening things like fried potatoes. Staying thin is hard work and most thin people I know LOVE potatoes. We have to work at not eating them fried or with lots of butter and sour cream. Sorry, but I work so hard at being thin, and get tired of comments such as yours, portraying it as just a natural instinct to disdain fattening foods. Not true! We just don't get the luxury of enjoying such fattening foods whereas larger people do.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

That was a powerful post. What came through most strongly for me was the sacrifices your mother made to do right by her family, with the potatoe dishes as a metaphor for her efforts. Nicely done!

Andrew
To Love, Honor and Dismay

 
At 3:25 PM, Blogger candyinsierras said...

Anonymous...a joke. It is just a cliche. Nothing to be passionate about. Potatoes get the thick end of the stick. We all know it is what you pile on potatoes that wreak havoc to our bodies. Most of us work at maintaining or recapturing our youthful figure....of course it takes work. Yes, we all love potatoes, chocolate, cheesecake, and thick cream and butter...but hey...the potato gets thrown in there for good measure. If you get so passionate about your thinness that it causes anger....find a way that works that doesn't cause such a chip on your shoulder while taking care of what you feel you need to take care of in your life.

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger candyinsierras said...

Andrew. Thanks. Yeah, it is all so fresh in my mind cuz my mother passed away recently...so these stories are in stark relief in my mind lately.

 
At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps its nothing to get passionate about in your opinion. In mine, it is something to get passionate about! I love potatoes, --but can rarely eat them. As far as anger and a chip on my shoulder, huh? Sorry if I came across that way. I'm not at all, but thanks for the advice.

Good day to you.

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger candyinsierras said...

Anon...perhaps posting as anonymous gave me room to be rude. Sorry. I apologize for my rudeness in my response.

 
At 8:26 AM, Blogger Kim from Hiraeth said...

Beautiful story, Candy, beautifully written.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Islandsparrow said...

That is a moving story about your Mom Candy - thanks for sharing it.

 

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