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Mama's potatoes can't be duplicated

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Reggie Ponder

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By Reggie Ponder

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day — especially all the mothers.

With Mother’s Day just behind us and the N.C. Potato Festival scheduled for this weekend I have been thinking a lot about mothers and potatoes and have realized something significant about both. Potatoes (fixed any number of ways) are a food that says “home” for people in North Carolina and much of the country. And as a corollary of that association potatoes have with home, many of us treasure a particular way our mother prepared potatoes.

And if you’re blessed to know what I’m talking about then you also know that nobody else can cook them the way mama can.

This isn’t a new observation, of course. I recall, for instance, that the late Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Lewis Grizzard devoted an entire column (maybe more than one) to how nobody’s French fries could hold a candle to his mother’s. He insisted he had spent his whole adult life trying to find a plate of French fries that might at least approach what his mother used to do but just hadn’t found it.

Now, those of us who have enjoyed the fries at the Potato Festival are fond of saying they’re the best in the world. And they might be, too, but I don’t think we could have convinced Lewis.

In my case it wasn’t fries but two other dishes: potato salad and mashed potatoes.

If Lewis Grizzard had trouble finding fries that could suit him because his mother had set the bar too high for anyone else to clear, I have similar trouble with potato salad for the same reason.

I have made potato salad myself and I don’t think it was bad. But “not bad” is not really what most of us are shooting for.

Certainly I have eaten good potato salad at church suppers, picnics with friends, and some restaurants.

It’s not the same, though.

My sister does a pretty good job with potato salad but she also watches cooking shows, which means she’s always trying something. My mother doesn’t try anything with potato salad. What works, works.

And my mother’s mashed potatoes are also the best I have ever had. I have tried making them at home — in fact I make them at home probably once a week or so — but I never quite seem to get it right.

It can’t be that difficult, either. We’re talking about boiling and then mashing potatoes, with just a bit of milk, butter and the right amount of salt.

How hard could that be?

Harder than it sounds, it turns out.

Reggie Ponder is a staff writer for The Daily Advance

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