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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The War of the Mashed Potatoes

By Deb who blogs at Simple Not Easy

There was a mashed potato war at our house. On Sunday after church, the aunties and uncles and cousins would arrive at our house laden with chickens and roasts, salads and jello, cakes, pies, green bean casseroles and the ubiquitous cornbread, red beans, bisquits and red-eye gravy.

(The uncle's pockets also usually held small silver flasks of whiskey which they hid from Grandma and from their wives.)

The house and porches overflowed with arguing and laughter, smoke curled up from the men's cigars and tantalizing smells of frying chicken or roast beef made our bellies growl as we waited for 2PM.

Finally the aunties would begin to scurry in and out of the steaming kitchen to load the trestle tables Dad and his brothers would set up, inside or out, depending on the weather. Once we all were seated (kids had to sit at a smaller table), Grandma would stand at the head of the big folks table and say an extended thank you to Jesus.

When the smaller kids started to cry from starvation, she'd quit so we'd sometimes pinch a little one to make them bawl. She'd pause, everyone would give a hearty "AMEN!" and fall to and start filling their plates.

The mashed potato war between my Mama and Daddy's Mama was over two things, consistency and the Bible. Mama's potatoes were not so much mashed as pureed. She went at a pot of cooked and steaming potatoes with all the fervent zeal of her religion.

Mama had always been a bit of a thorn in Grandma's side and seeing as how my late Grandaddy had been a Baptist pastor and the whole family was Baptist, Mama did the worst thing possible. She went and got herself converted to Seventh-Day Adventist, kept Saturday as the Sabbath and claimed Baptists worshiped the Pope, which really got Grandma's back up.

Butter, milk, salt and good hard exercise was what Mama used to whip five pounds of potatoes into a bowl of cloud-like consistency that rarely passed around the table before it was emptied at Sunday dinner.

On the other hand, Grandma's potatoes were (Mama said dismissively) lumpy. She liked to leave little chunks of potato in them so they "don't feel like wallpaper paste in your mouth," she'd say a bit sourly, passing on Mama's potatoes.

The Bible part of the potato war was in how Grandma "seasoned" hers with bits of fried bacon and bacon grease, and served them with red-eye gravy. This meant of course that Mama would not eat them, as Seventh-Day Adventists believe it is sinful to eat the cloven hoofed pig or the succulent catfish, squirrel, possum, or rabbit that occasionally turned up for Sunday dinner, courtesy of my brothers, uncles and cousins who had long guns and spent Saturday afternoons in the woods.

And of course, Grandma would no more leave the bacon grease out of her mashed potatoes than she would make a pilgrimage to Rome. As far as she was concerned, if God hadn't meant for her to put bacon in her mashed spuds he wouldn't have made the pig so tasty.

Grandma's bowl of "lumpy" potatoes would be passed around and Mama would hand it on, lips pulled tighter than a banker's purse strings.

While I was a little Adventist child on Saturday morning, on Sunday afternoon I had a Baptist stomach. I loved Grandma's lumpy potatoes and the red-eye gravy dumped over them but if I got any, it was a quick mouthful off the spoon from Grandma in the kitchen after a round-the-corner check to make sure Mama was arguing Sabbath Day religion with one of the aunties.

At the table I ducked my head and passed on Grandma's potatoes or there'd be righteous hell to pay later.

One week Daddy would make an enemy of Grandma by scooping up a huge portion of Mama's potatoes and practically licking the remnants from his plate. The next Sunday he'd made an enemy of Mama as he dove into his mother's dishpan-sized bowl of "lumpy" potatoes seeking here and there a ribbon of grainy bacon dripping among the white hillocks.

For Daddy was a Baptist and as he was fond of saying, "One good thing about being a Baptist is a man can eat whatever he likes."

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a wonderful story just full of local color.You are a true storyteller--I can just see everybody and smell and taste all the dishes. Such fun!

My mouth is watering for either dish...cloud-like consistency or lumpy potatoes, but without the bacon grease please...
Fun to read!

Deb, I absolutely love the humor and the wonderful use of language in this story.

And the kids love making mashed-potato hills and valleys to fill with gravy.

A delightful story that gives a picture of this "full of life" family. I love getting to know their beliefs, thoughts and emotions as they gather for a special meal. Thank you for sharing.

Wonderful! Make me want some right now. But isn't it crazy how people fight over the dumbest things?

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