I like to think that over the course of three years of university, I’ve learned a fair bit. I think I’ve mastered laundry (proof of this being I no longer shrink my clothes). I pay (most of) my bills on time, and I know how to make meals that are somewhat healthy. And I’m really good at making desserts.
But for the life of me, I can’t cook a damn potato.
Mashed, baked, boiled – I can remember every single time I’ve purchased potatoes, intending to incorporate them into some delicious recipe, and not once have they turned out right. There was the time I tried to boil them for a veggie medley – I boiled them for twice as long as the recipe called for, and they were still crisp and gross in the middle. Turns out I was using the wrong potatoes.
There was the time I tried to make garlic whipped potatoes (thinking I’d learned my lesson and making sure I bought the correct ones this time), but miscalculated and started to mash them – while they were still undercooked – leading to chunky and crunchy somewhat-mashed potatoes.
Then there was last night where I was helping a friend babysit and offered to make double-stuffed baked potatoes. Sounds delicious, no? First I boiled them for what seemed like forever. But when cooking for small children, they got hungry, and then I got anxious, so after a while I arbitrarily decided the potatoes must be finished, and if they weren’t totally done, I could finish them off in the oven.
So I dumped the water, cut them in half, and started scooping. Well, tried to scoop. Not easily accomplished when the potato is still raw. But the kids and my friend (and ME!) were all getting hungry, so I sliced up the insides and scooped them out in chunks with a fork – I could make this work, right??? Next up I mixed in some spices, some cheese, and some sour cream, and then scooped this lumpy mess back into the potato shells.
During this time, I had already SOS-texted both my mom and my good friend (who are master cooks) asking how long to bake half-boiled potatoes. Both text back: “never boil, only bake!” Regardless, I kept going. There can’t be anything worse than the moment you realize your mistake might be unfixable but its too late to stop. I was there.
So the potatoes go in the oven. Chicken and veggies are already done and are getting cold on the counter. I again, make up a cook-time, count slowly (one-one thousand… two-one thousand…) And when finally everyone in the kitchen is salivating and starving, I expertly pronounce “perfect! They are ready.”
At this point I can’t stop grinning, as I’ve admitted defeat. Friend asks what’s so funny…
“Nothing, I just might have undercooked the potatoes a bit.”
Friend: “I’m sure they’ll be fine.” (Thank god I pick good friends.)
Moment of truth – fork and knife, sitting at the table… Chicken is delicious, if slightly cold (as the BBQ was ready 10 mins ago)… Potatoes were: crunchy, with sections of mush.
To my saint of a friend: thank you for persevering and smiling while we ate crunchy mashed potatoes last night. Also, thank you for raising a beautiful child who is so honest as to declare “this supper isn’t really very good.” I haven’t laughed that hard at a failure in a long time.
PS: I owe you a homemade meal. But I swear to make something that doesn’t include potatoes.
PPS (to anyone reading this): life lesson? Cookbooks are worth their weight in gold.