Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Small Potatoes

The dinner that my wife cooked tonight was very good, one of those where you want to kiss her just to smell the scent of dinner on her. It so reminded me of the days of growing up. I found out during the meal that my mother had visited during the day, and brought some home grown potatoes. Now these are not JUST home grown potatoes .....

I grew up in Eastern North Carolina, where the soil is very fertile. I am talking about soil that would grow anything, was completely black, and was the envy of farmers everywhere. Years after I moved to Central North Carolina, my father visited and did not understand planting or fertilizing grass as he was accustomed to it just growing automatically from the seeds of the grass near it. Dirt that makes you want to just scoop up a handful and eat the dirt straight. God's perfect soil, everything added.

Now when I was younger, my sister (aka THE slave driver) would wake me up on the hottest day of the year, usually somewhere around the end of July June. At the end of two 100 foot rows of potato plants, she would pull up the vines, and make me dig down 12 inches or so, the full length of the garden rows. We would collect and clean every potato from the size of your pinky fingernail, to the really big "baking potatoes". This might be a fond memory now, but even as a child, I had to rest for a day or two after this digging frenzy.

The next part of the process was my mother taking an old five gallon bucket full of these spuds, washing them as she would run them around and around in the bucket to clean off the skins. Then it was off to a boiling pot with plenty of oil and flour to make a paste on everything. Good Southern cooking always involves some type of cooking grease and these potatoes were no exception.

Move ahead 15 years to a time when that same sister now has two little girls. These same potatoes were now the golden fruits of intense battles between my niece and her Uncle Dana. The power that comes with making a 7 year old cry, just by first getting her "little tators" cannot be described, but must be experienced. This same little girl has now traded places with me in the war of the baby potatoes, her opponent being my son.

I assume that most people do not have these types of memories when they are finishing their starches. For me Small Potatoes rush in so many memories that it is difficult to tell which was better, the memories or the meal.

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