Like many girls with a penchant for the finer things in life, I have always had an insatiable love for mashed potato. The billowing mounds of buttery goodness have seen me through the toughest of times: providing comfort during my early uni days when life's problems were solved by a bag of Asda instant, the remnants of a pot of Bisto and a kettle; adding a glistening silver lining to many failed Atkins attempts and, of course, being the crowning glory of every Sunday Roast. You can often rely on the good stuff to paste over the cracks in sanity and tears to the heart which inevitably bugger life up along the way. Sadly however, typical of many a love story, my relationship with mash has not always been entirely 'lump free'.
I was probably a bit of a weeper as a kid: growing up on a field in sunny Sussex, not used to many disappointments in life and perhaps a tad over-sensitive. I was dealt a large helping of unsavory news one Sunday which was impossible to swallow: mashing potatoes were OUT OF SEASON?! The moment it sunk in so did my heart, and pathetic tears began to pump into my face: the now all too familiar feeling of lips and eyelids uncontrollably swelling, competing with one another to inflate to bursting point on my sulky bright red face. However much I tried to stop what I knew was about to erupt, my face had already reached Pete Burns proportions and there was no way back: yes, I wept, sobbed and snotted through loyalty to a root vegetable.
In an attempt to defend my eleven year old self - new potatoes will never be comparable to the old classics: there is nothing fluffy or indulgent about a new potato. It's like trying to substitute Holly Willouhby for Fern Britton. It’s sick and it’s wrong. Still, whatever degree of justification I can scrape together, I did perhaps over react slightly on this occasion.
Yes, I wept, sobbed and snotted through loyalty to a root vegetable.
Of course once the heartbreak dispersed there were some epic moments between me and my beloved mash. For example, you know you’re a true adult when you’ve managed to independently mash a bag of tatties to perfection. This memorable moment comes only once you’ve sourced the required tools: a pot big enough to house more than just a cube of supernoodles, a peeler AND a mashing device. Forget renting your own flat, making a (nearly) decent wage and funding your own Friday night cider habit, you know you’ve successfully flown the nest when you’ve single handedly creamed five potatoes into absolute submission. Triumph and glory is yours.
Best of all, gravy can be made thick enough to stand a spoon in without a single parental protest and you can proudly stick bangers in your masterpiece in whatever formation you fancy, the cruder the better as you’re a grown up now and this isn’t playing with your food, it’s pure wit on a plate.
Oh how the good potato times continued to roll. I can wistfully remember the poncy moments of stirring in a bit of wholegrain mustard, smugly hoping to impress the lucky man at the time by feeding him to bursting with love and potatoes. Even the gluttonous occasions when I covertly grated a heap of cheddar over my own portion, furiously stirring it in before anyone could notice that I’d opted for eating my feelings rather than experiencing them are remembered with a decadent fondness.
Forget renting your own flat, making a (nearly) decent wage and funding your own Friday night cider habit, you know you’ve successfully flown the nest when you’ve single handedly creamed five potatoes into absolute submission.
Without a shadow of a doubt I could give Badger of ‘Bodger and Badger’ fame a run for his money when it comes to mashed potato love.* And despite sharing a food obsession with a long forgotten Children’s T.V. puppet superstar, I find it reassuring that Badger also suffered through having to settle for the powdered stuff. Although it may be likely that this was due to the producers having to leap over the hurdle of Badger’s lack of opposable thumbs with which to operate a potato peeler, I like to think that his master and companion, Bodger, was probably just a busy hard working fella who could not afford the time or money to sustain a Bagder’s insatiable appetite for mash: a bumper box of dried flakes being the obvious, frugal alternative.
So however much it stings to realize that a bag of 20p Smash is a January necessity to keep me fed for at least two more pre-payday evenings, I feel no shame about returning to the freeze dried stuff (however inferior the taste… and texture… and colour…) but instead will plod defiantly on, having learnt from previous devastation that this is by no means a tear worthy disaster. I have hope that real, nutrition-rich mash will return to life again soon, and bring with it enough good fortune to last the whole year.
*For anyone unfamiliar with the genius of Bodger and Badger, I suggest watching the below clip to help some of this make slightly more sense…