My first year to live in Italy, (around 1999) working for the US Department of Defense on an Air Force Base, away from friends and family in the states a couple of male friends and I decided to have our own Thanksgiving meal. I was still getting well from an injury that caused ‘severed nerves and tendons in my right hand’ so, due to this injury- I wasn’t able to lift heavy things or do as much ‘cooking/stirring/etc.’ that I usually would be able to. One friend said that he’d bake the turkey at home and bring it to my house and then we’d assemble the rest of the meal at my house.
I had baked a couple of pies: Pecan and Pumpkin.
I had made green beans and the sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. (I’m from the south) I had also assembled the cornbread stuffing. They had to do any stirring and lift the pans and put them in/out of the oven. My oven was tiny- so, we were cooking the foods in shifts.
I asked them if they wanted regular mashed potatoes too and they did. We did always serve both types when I was growing up.
So, off we go to the local small Italian grocery store, less than 2 blocks away, to pick up some regular white potatoes. This was in 1999 and at this little store, you weren’t allowed to ‘touch’ or pick out your own produce. You had to point or tell them what you wanted and they (the produce guy) selected and bagged up your items. We pointed to the regular potatoes that had lots of dirt on the skins and he bagged them up for us.
Off we walk back home and we send my friend’s visiting ‘and non-cooking’ friend to the little balcony off my kitchen, to peel the potatoes, since my kitchen was too small for 3 people to work in it. His friend peeled the potatoes and then mentioned how dirty they looked. We told him that it was probably because he didn’t wash them first and remember that they did have a lot of dirt on the skins of the potatoes. So, he brought them into the kitchen washed them really well under the running water and we told him to put some clean water in the pot to cook the chunks of potatoes.
After about 25 minutes… the potatoes were done. We told him to drain the water and to add some butter and milk to the potatoes and mash them up. My friend, told him to just pour the water out in the sink and to rinse the potatoes before he added the butter and milk. My friend told me that his friend really didn’t know anything about cooking and that this was a big step for him to be helping with the meal. So, my friend and I continued putting together our meal as we cooked the items almost one by one due to my tiny oven.
We set out our feast, carved the turkey, filled out plates with food… and then for the first time … we noticed that the ‘regular mashed potatoes’ were GREY IN COLOR… like a very dirty white sock that has been worn outside in the dirt and won’t ever come clean. Like they had been cooked and sitting in mop water. We again questioned my friend’s friend to make sure that he had washed the potatoes before he cooked them and again he told us that he had.
They did not look appealing or appetizing at all. No one was brave enough to try them. I finally tasted them. They were some sort of sweet potatoes. So, not only did we not get our mashed potatoes (I had also made some homemade gravy for the ‘expected mashed potatoes.’) but, we had two types of sweet potatoes:
Orange Sweet potatoes with melted browned marshmallows on the top and…
DIRTY GREY SWEET POTATOES
We laughed so much that day at our ‘very ugly’ dirty, but tasty, potatoes.
I always remember that meal that was made fun by a new and very casual friend and his visiting friend… a meal that I would not have been able to prepare alone due to my injury and without each other… that none of us would have had a Thanksgiving meal at all. And, especially not one as full of laughter as that particular meal was that day.