Mashed Potatoes

David likes potatoes, and he had made baked potatoes any number of times on camping trips: Just wrap a potato in tin foil and chuck it into the campfire for an hour. So one night when David was home alone he decided to make himself potatoes for dinner. I'm sure his choice of meal was influenced by the fact that there were two potatoes in the refrigerator, hence no grocery shopping would be required.

Unfortunately, he decided to make mashed potatoes.

David took the potatoes over to the sink and peeled them. They seemed rather hard, so he took out a cutting board and knife and chopped them up. They still seemed to be in rather large chunks so he tried shredding them with a colander and pummelling them with the bowl of a spoon. No luck.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so he scouted around his toolchest and took out a hammer, whose head he wrapped in aluminum foil. He then proceeded to wallop the living crap out of the potato chunks. After half an hour of hard labor, David had dutifully produced a mound of purplish-grey potato gruel, which he scraped off the cutting board and slopped into a saucepan on the stove, setting the flame to ``high.'' He then retired to the study for some preprandial reading. Thirty minutes later he returned to the kitchen.

It was not a vista for the weak of heart or weak of stomach. Atop the saucepan David had left cooking was a white, breast-shaped mountain that went ``blorp'' and collapsed every few seconds as steam exploded from a nipple-like hole in the middle. David was unable to pierce the surface with a spoon, so he left it to cool.

David returned an hour later from a trip to McDonald's. He took the saucepan from the stove and tried to shake the mountain out into the garbage. No luck. He tried a spoon on it. The spoon made no mark. Not even a scratch. He tried a knife, but was concerned that the blade might snap off. So for the second time that evening, David resorted to the toolchest. He took out an awl and a mallet and proceeded to chip away at the extraordinarily solid mass that remained as testament to his cooking skill.

By the time I returned home later that week, the evidence was completely gone. The kitchen was spotless, new potatoes were waiting in the fridge. And the saucepan had disappeared.

I never did find out why the wok was also missing.

--Add some info on the chemistry of mashed potatoes ---

David's Favorite Mashed Potatoes

2 large potatoes
1/2 cup applesauce
salt and pepper

Clean the potatoes under the tap. Don't peel them, since the skin has most of the minerals. Slice roughly to speed the cooking time. Place the sliced potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. There should be at least one inch of saucepan left above the water mark, or else you risk the whole thing boiling over! Put the saucepan on the stove and set the flame to ``high.'' After 15 minutes have passed the water should be boiling and the potatoes should be nearly done. Test for doneness by poking a fork into the middle of one of the thicker slices of potato. If the fork goes in easily, taste a bit of that potato. If it feels soft to the tongue, it's done.

Drain the potatoes. It's not necessary to get every bit of water out, as the liquid left in will help in the mashing. (Some people save the potato water for soup stock.) Mash the potatoes with a fork. Add the applesauce. Mash until smooth enough to suit you. Add salt and pepper to taste. NEVER add more than 1/4 teaspoon at a time, and taste every time you mix in the added spice. It's easy to add more salt or pepper, but impossible to take out extra. You may also add more applesauce if it suits you.

Some people also use milk in the mashing, but see my

  • no milk
  • page.