“Fluffy v. Lumpy”
I wonder about potatoes. Potatoes and their care represented my father. He carefully tended the first shoots. He revered the red blossoms as they appeared. He smiled as the first frost meant the red globes were ready for harvesting. Equipment was prepared. Crews of children and adults came to pick and sort basket after basket of potatoes — Number 1s and seed — sewn in burlap bags and taken to adobe cellars. For Father, the planting, growing, and harvesting process was a spring, summer, and fall ritual.
Father’s potatoes were served at almost every dinner. At noon, he was called to complete another loving ritual — the preparing of the potatoes with an ancient masher, a smidgen of salt, milk, and a dollop of fresh butter. The result: smooth, creamy, FLUFFY potatoes. “Eat more,” he’d say. “After all we’ve got to raise the price!”
Father has long since passed on. However, today he’d be concerned that his ritual is no more. Impersonal large modern equipment digs, sorts, dumps potatoes into large buildings. Also, …I go to restaurants to order a steak — medium-rare, of course. I am offered a salad. I am offered a choice of baked or mashed potatoes. Memory requires mashed. Dinner arrives — steak brazed to perfection, vegetables sauteed to perfection, potatoes? LUMPY! … “A moment, sir. What is wrong with these potatoes? They are, well, lumpy and smell of garlic.” The server stiffly informs me this is the “custom” in fine restaurants. “But, there is no fluffy quality! Does someone use a lump-making machine? Is someone just unskilled as a potato masher?”
Taste — lumps — garlic! Father, where are your potatoes — your nurturing, your preparation, your presentation? What would you say of such restaurants’ audacity? Memory comes, Father, of you. Your love, your skills, your kindness, your humor. . . . And ritual — of you and your unmatchable fluffy potatoes!
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