Friday, October 31, 2008

Dressing Up Is Hard To Do.

I'm not much for horror movies or decorating the house for any holidays whatsoever, but I do get a kick out of making the kids Halloween costumes. This year, Thing 1 went dressed as an 80s Aerobic Instructor (complete with leg warmers and a headband) and Thing 2 went out as a rapper. Even though they have a pretty good idea of what they want to look like, I still like to help put the things together.

Over the years they have been: a bumblebee, a spider, an 80s prom queen, Barbie, a skunk, a mad scientist, an angel, Batman, a witch, a gypsy and a dead cheerleader. Most of the costumes have been put together with a glue gun and some felt, but occasionally I've actually pulled out the sewing machine and put some work into it. Thank God for Value Village, though, I buy most of my costumes there.

Way back a million years ago, I used to go out to pubs and such on Halloween and saw some truly amazing costumes. A bunch of us went out as the cast of "Gilligans Island", and since there were way more girls than boys in the group, I had to go as Gilligan. (I'm just happy I didn't have to be Mr. Howell. Or the Skipper.) I saw a guy dressed as a helicopter (he cleared the dance floor; he kept clocking everyone within 6 feet with his propellers), a carrot, a Twinkie and Princess Diana, complete with wedding dress. (The guy dressed as Princess Diana was huge.)

Once, at a pub, there were a bunch of guys dressed as a box of crayons, another group dressed as the Golden Gate Bridge (they were all hooked together by their hats...they took up a lot of room on the dance floor, too.) and another group as "Elvis Through the Years" (Rockabilly Elvis, Blue Hawaii Elvis, Fat Junkie Elvis and Dead Elvis.)

I went to a party where a guy came as a Christmas tree; it was quite the costume. He was confined to a corner all night, because he had to stay plugged in. At the same party, a guy came in jeans and a t-shirt. He said he was a serial killer, and that they just looked like everybody else.

My niece once went out dressed all in blue with puffy white cotton attached all over her, and she carried a spray bottle....she was "Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Showers".

I usually just went out as The Angel of Death or a witch or something. I didn't want to work too hard. I've got all the imagination, but none of the ambition.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

But I DO Have Places To Go.

It is not even Halloween, but this morning, we woke up to this:
I can tell that my children are getting older, because it used to be that the first snow of the year was a cause for joyous celebration and wild excitement. This morning, the scene outside the living room window was met with groans and abject disappointment. (Thing 1 was groaning because she has to walk 20 minutes to school, and snow means that she can't wear her bitchin' shoes, and Thing 2 was disappointed because snow means that her Trick or Treating plans to cover 18 square miles will be thwarted, because she knows her mother will not stay out in the cold.)

The drive to work was an adventure, to say the least. Since it usually takes me about 15 minutes to get to work, I leave at 20 to 9 in the mornings. And since I also know that the first snowfall means that most drivers have to learn how to operate a motor vehicle all over again, and the drive in will be slow, I gave myself double the time to get downtown. Still not enough. I called work after being on the road for a half an hour to say that I could still see my street in the rear view mirror.
There are plenty of trees that have not lost their leaves yet, and that, combined with the heavy, wet snow, meant that there were branches down all over the place. It was sort of like being in a video game, driving on some streets. Here is the tree carnage in our backyard:
We lost the weathervane on top of the shed, but you will notice that the fence to keep the rabbits out of the garden is intact, thank goodness. (That last bit, it should be noted, was deeply sarcastic.)
Here is our front porch this morning. You would be forgiven for thinking that we keep giant clams as decoration on our front porch, but those are actually chrysanthemums.
Tomorrow, the forecast is for a high of 8°C, and 14°C for Friday, Halloween. I don't care how much snow has fallen or melted, or what the temperature is, we are not covering 18 square miles.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rise And Shine

I'm usually a morning person; I wake up without an alarm clock most mornings and get up easily enough. When I get up, I can function pretty much from the get go, and can make breakfast for myself, get dressed, carry on conversations and even plan my day.

I'm not bragging about this, it is pure DNA....I come from a father who would go to bed at 8:00 every night if he was let, and get up at 4 in the morning. (Pride and my mother will not let him go to bed before sundown.) My mother, on the other hand, would have cheerfully slept around the clock, I think, had she had the opportunity, and would have easily won gold medals for Canada if sleeping was an Olympic sport. I just managed to get the early-rising genes.

My brother had a notoriously difficult time getting up in the mornings, and one time I had the delicious opportunity to fool him into thinking he had gotten up, laid down on the couch for "just a minute", and then slept until 4 in the afternoon. (He had actually laid down for just a minute or two, but had drifted off briefly.) I still smile when I think of the look on his face when he thought he has slept all day. He probably still has heart failure.

Other people in my house, namely, the Mister, are made of different stuff. He operates on a purely molecular level for about an hour or so after rising, and even then, cannot be counted on to answer questions, interact with others in a remotely coherent manner or co-ordinate any of his limbs into any semblance of order. It is a lesson in human development to watch him climb the evolutionary ladder every morning.

Thing 1 is pretty good about getting herself up and out the door by 7:30 or so. And Thing 2 needs to be roused, but can get going without too much of a fuss every day. But all of them complain bitterly about the actual waking and rising, like I am making ferociously unreasonable demands on all of them to start their days.

Toby is a very effective alarm clock, as he tends to greet the day by balancing all of his body weight on my bladder at 7 a.m. I can assure you I have gently tried to dissuade him from this policy, by forcibly ejecting him from the bed, but so far, have had very little luck in convincing him to cease.

Around here, we even have a name for that delightful feeling of waking up and realizing that you don't have to get up yet. (Even better when you realize you don't have to get up at all)'s called "coverlicous". When it is dark and cold out and you can turn over and go back to sleep? Coverlicious.

I think I'm the only one in my house that actually likes going to sleep though. Everyone else puts it off until all hours, and winds up going to bed ridiculously late. (I see a correlation, but apparently, I'm the only one.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Amazing Race 13 Ep. 5

Man, I hate it when a team finds themselves in an impossible situation like that....Aja and Ty had absolutely no way to catch up. I wonder, given the times we were told for the flights, if they weren't 24 hours behind everyone else. Too bad, too...I was getting to really like them, if only for the "hotter than Satan's toenails" remark.

At the beginning, I could have sworn that Phil said that the last pit stop was at a "recreation park and sheep farm". How do those two functions work together? What kind of recreation goes on at a sheep farm? Do I want to know?

Whiney Frat Boys can get off my screen right now. Curly-headed Bumbler isn't so bad, but Cranky-Pants Bespeckled One is very annoying.
And, apparently, geography is only taught in "fancy private schools".

Was anyone else hoping that Ken and Tina would fall off the side of that truck? I would have cheerfully paid that driver to do some sort of swervey manoever to make that happen.

Terrance seemed peeved and exasperated when he said on the boat, "everyone is following us". Dude, you are all going to the same place. Was everyone else supposed to take a different route?
When he was desperately trying to pole that boat into moving somewhere, Thing 1 remarked that she hoped that stick would break.
And what's with him complaining that Sarah keeps outrunning him...isn't he a running coach? This must be very bad for business.

I liked when the Divorcees stopped and randomly played basketball because they saw some other team playing basketball. And then thought that maybe they should have a clue first.

Favorite Line of the Night: (if only because of the delivery and the accompanying facial expressions) "Do you have any teeth for us.....hers???".

That did look like a tough Roadblock. I've never been to Angor Wat, but people I know who have say it is ginormous, and very confusing. I'd have had all kinds of trouble, simply keeping my trap shut, as I think it's probably not a good thing to swear your fool head off in a religious place.

Best Use of a Sound Effect goes to the guy who decided to use the gong when Tina conked her noggin leaving the boat/tailors.

And Dallas's mom officially rocks. From the "it's just mud, get on with it" to the "and then we dumped our fish", she is my favorite racer this time around. No muss, no fuss. Love her.

I was somewhat confused at The Divorcee's reaction to hearing hat they they were team #5....I thought they'd be happy they weren't farther down on the list. It turns out, I read, that they thought they were going to be first! How they were under that impression, I have no idea. Didn't they see Ken and Tina leaving the temple before them? So much for "a force to be reckoned with".
I'm sorry, did Starr and Nick win a trip for two to St. John, New Brunswick? Because I bet the snorkelling there sucks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fried Corn

Canned vegetables are about as far down on the "Oh, I Guess We Could Eat That" Meter as one can get. Not 'white trash' enough to qualify as food so bad for you you would actually boast about eating it, like it was a badge of honour, and not good enough to actually consider eating unless there is some sort of nuclear winter on the threshold, most of us ignore canned vegetables in favor of fresh or frozen.
And although canned vegetables have mostly deserved their bad rap (canned peas, in particular, smell like death.) there are some which transcend their miserable reputation, and are actually on my "Hmmm-That's-Not-A-Bad-Idea" list. (Not to be confused with my "I'd-Give-My-Left-Kidney-To-Get-Me-Some-Of-That-List", which contains no vegetables on it whatsoever, and pizza is vastly overrepresented.)

This recipe (if you can call it that) is one I make mostly in the winter. I can always keep a can of corn on hand, and it is quick and tasty. Much, much better than plain, frozen corn. (Plain, frozen corn is, as my brother would say, only slightly better than a kick in the head.) And it has the advantage of being ridiculously easy and fast, and kids will eat a metric tonne of this stuff in one sitting.

Fried Corn~ serves 2 or 3
Open a can of Peaches and Cream Corn. (Forget the generic, no-name brand! Splash out on the Green Giant $1.09 stuff! Live a little!!) You may need two cans.
Drain in a sieve for a while, at least 10 to 15 minutes. The longer the better; you want the corn to be not dripping.
Put a frying pan over medium heat and melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, about 2 for an average sized can of corn. Now dump the corn into the pan, and let it sizzle for a minute or two. Start scraping up the corn off the bottom of the pan, and turn it over, letting the browned, caramelized bits come to the top. You can turn the corn down to low if it's cooking too fast, but otherwise just let it do it's thing, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan every now and again. This should take a minumum of about 10 minutes, but if you want to let it sit, turn down the heat to low and let it take a little longer to cook.
The corn should get very sweet and nutty. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and serve. That's it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


The Mister and I took a much needed vacation from our lives this past weekend; we flew to Quebec to stay at our friend's place in St-Sauveur for a couple of days. It was heavenly. We've both been a bit under the gun lately, it seems, and we're not used to that at all.
For me, the holiday starts the minute I step foot in the airport, which means that calories take a holiday too, and I bought a bag of Ruffles and a big bar of chocolate right away. The flights were uneventful; flying between Toronto and Montreal means that you start your final approach to your landing about 10 minutes after you get up into the air.

I love airports; the people watching there is wonderful. Most of the time, I am fascinated by what people wear on their feet (did you not know you were going to have to walk the length of several football fields?) and what people take for their carry-on luggage. On our way home, there was a woman on our flight who was carrying a pie. If I had been lucky enough to sit anywhere near here, you know I'd have been asking what the hell that was all about. (The Mister was terrified that I would be lucky enough to sit anywhere near her.)

Anyway, the Mister and I had a wonderful time. Mostly we slept, because that is what passes for a wonderful time when you are middle aged. On the first morning, we slept in until 11:30, which hasn't happened since 1993.
At one point, I had to send the Mister off to get me a coffee. (I wasn't insured on the rental car, and besides, I was busy making scrambled eggs and toasting the Montreal bagels.) The Mister doesn't drink coffee, so he is rather hopeless at fetching it....he hasn't got the finely honed instincts of the truly addicted. I sent him off to Tim Hortons, and he had a little trouble, even though there are two within sight of each other in the tiny little town of St.-Sauveur. I could find a Tim Hortons by smell alone within 10 miles of one. (Which is a bit of a doddle, really, since there are not ten miles square in Canada without a Tim Horton's.) He finally came back after a ridiculous interval, bearing a coffee, for which I was most grateful.
We hiked and read and ate and slept and it was seriously the best holiday ever.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Amazing Race 13 Ep. 4

Oh, Blondes, you were very nice to have around, but really? you were cannon fodder from the start. But so cheerful, I rather liked them. ("It's like a puzzle." Gee, ya think?)

PHIL'S DAD!! Best. Greeter. Ever!! (I was reading on the web that, apparently, they had originally tried to get Phil's dad's house as the Pit Stop for this leg of the race, but that it didn't work out. A million kinds of awesome, that is.) I loved Phil's eye roll when his dad wanted to give the girls a hug, like, even when you are a hot, Kiwi, reality show big-wig, your dad can still embarrass you.
I also heard that Phil and his dad spent about 10 hours in that field, between the first and last teams to arrive.

I will never look at a glass of kiwi juice quite the same way again....who knew it was so hard to get? Also, I will not be able to get the image of stinky, smelly, dirty feet producing that juice. None for me, thanks!

Terence is a big whiny baby, no? Telling Sarah she shouldn't open the envelope "because [she] doesn't do it right"? Shouldn't he be getting his blanky and a nap right about now? What do you think will happen if he gets arrested and ends up in a Turkish prison? He will probably blame that on her too. And "touch my hair or something"??? I loathe him.

Favorite Line of the Night: from Dallas..."and all I could think of was 'please don't eat my mom'."
Also, from one of the frat boys: "Why did I have to wear pants today!?!" (If I had a nickle for every time I thought that to myself.....)

I also loved the part where the Maori tribesman was scaring the pants off the Belle.

That was one of the most horrific Fast Forwards ever. I don't like heights, and I think I would have just burst into flames when that tower swayed in the winds. That Tina is one tough bird. (Although she didn't seem to have much of a problem with the helicopter ride, which, as you might have noticed, is high.)

Jerome the Gnome!

Until next week!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


It has been a ridiculous week here at Chez Loudshoes. I seem to have spent the last 10 days saying to myself "and after this, I have to....". I'm afraid the blog has just not been gotten to.
The Mister and I are off to Saint-Sauveur Quebec for some much needed R&R for a few days. (It's been so long since we've spent any time together, I walked passed him on my way through the kitchen the other day, and felt the need to introduce myself.)
I hope to be a little more organized when I come back.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Amazing Race 13 Ep. 3

Sorry to see those Geeks go, if only because they seemed to actually have an idea that this was a race and how that works. (Unlike Sarah, who seems to think that this is a group project from high school, and that she's the only one pulling her weight...."Everyone else is out for themselves... It's not a popularity contest. It's actually us against the other teams." No shit, Sherlock. ) I also liked them because they handled their departure so well, no whining or "it wasn't our fault" or tears, they just sucked up their disappointment and got on with it.

Man, that looked like a nasty spill that one of the divorcees had when careening through the streets of La Paz on a bike made by the Flintstones. And she almost took out an innocent pedestrian while doing it, too.

That was seriously one of the very best Detours ever! I especially enjoyed leather-jacketed Phil calmly explaining the situation, while beskirted mayhem exploded behind him. How many takes did they need to get that one? Also? "The Fighting Cholitas" is my new imaginary band name. Can you imagine if they had had this Detour when Mirna was on the race??? Except, she'd have made Charla do it.

Bolivian Greeters hat was Vegas showgirl fabulous, no? I wish they had made Phil wear it. In fact, this episode had more stupendous headgear than we ususally get all season....the little bowler hats, the awesome bicycle helmet and then the Greeter? You won't find that on "Survivor".

Sports-braGate is possibly the lamest feud I have ever seen.

Now that the Geeks are out, I have to find a new team to root for, and surprisingly, it's the Southern Belles, who I had expected to have no time for whatsoever. "At least we get to sleep next to Simon Bolivar" was great....I thought there would be much more whining about sleeping on the ground from those two. Also, I like Dallas and his mother, and if he took off his shirt more often, I would totally love that team forever.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rules for Clients

Not every one can be a hairdresser (although, I think lots of people dream that they can..."but it looks so easy when you do it!") but mostly everyone except fundamentalist polygamist wives will eventually be a client. Here's how to do it right:

1. Be on time. This is a hairdresser's number one pet peeve, clients who are perpetually late, it throws of the rest of my day horribly. And believe me, you do not want the haircut I can give you in 15 minutes.
2. Tip the shampoo girl. She makes minimum wage, with the deal being that she is learning her craft and will eventually make a decent living. But for right now? she's not making much money, and believe me, she will remember you forever.

3. Don’t bitch about the price. Most hairdressers work on a straight commision only basis. When a client complains about the price we charge, I want to ask them how much less of a living would they like me to make, especially when they say they like the work that I do. Like restaurants, there are many different kinds of hair salons with many different pricing structures. Don't expect to eat fois gras when you are paying for Taco Bell.

4. Know what you want, or don’t want. When a client says "I don't know" I just want to smack them. Did you give this any thought at all on the way to the salon?? Or was it a complete surprise when you sat in the chair that you might be asked your opinion on how you wanted to look? Even if you have an idea of what you don't want, it's a place to start.

5. Be realistic. You are born with the hair you are born with. Deal with it. As I have said to many a client "this is a comb, not a wand".

6. Tip for extras. If I come in two hours ahead of my regular shift to fit you in, or take the time to slip your kid in for a bang trim or you get the shampoo girl to run out and get you something to eat, it is nice to have that extra effort acknowledged. Once I came in on my day off to do a client who was coming in from out of town for the day, and not only did she not bother to tip me, her cheque bounced.

7. Stinky hair is gross. In order to do colour, we have to work on unwashed hair. Most of the time that's no problem, in fact, working on hair that hasn't been freshly washed is a bit easier anyway. But you are fooling yourself if you think that cigarette you had in the car on the way in doesn't smell something fierce.

8. Don’t talk on your cell phone. When you have your phone up to your ear? it's up to your ear. I can't work around that. (I had one young woman who asked me if I had to blow dry right then, as she couldn't hear the person on the other end of the phone she had just answered.) Texting is no problem, it's akin to reading a magazine.

9. Don’t bring your small children when you are getting your hair done. Hair salons are full of hot, sharp, toxic objects; not a place for a 3 year old to wander around unsupervised. You'd be amazed at how much trouble a small child can get in when they know you are trapped in the chair for the duration.

10. Booking appointments. When you call, know when you can come in. Please. It can be like nailing jello to a wall to get some clients to commit to a day and a time. And if you are making the appointment for someone else who is in the same room as you, just let me talk to them. A ten minute conversation of "how about 10 on Tuesday?", "Just a sec.....she says how about ten on Tuesday", "No, I'm busy on Tuesday", "No, he's busy on Tuesday", "Okay, how about Wednesday then?", "Just a sec...she says how about Wednesday?" makes me want to reach through the phone and slap you both.

11. Don’t tell me how to do my job. I've been at this for a good twenty years now, and as much as I appreciate your input, I'm pretty sure I know how to cut bangs. Here's the deal: you give me the destination, I'll drive the bus. I might take a different route than your last hairdresser, but we will get there all the same.

Follow these rules and you will be an Uber-Client, the favorite of hairdressers the world over. And in exchange? We won't talk about you in the staff room.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rules for Hairdressers

1. Believe the client when she says nobody has ever done her hair the way she likes it. The common denominator here is her. You? are not going to be the one to change that record.

2. Have a plan. This is not a have to know where you are going before you get started.

3. Be realistic. If you can't do it, then tell the client right off the bat. There's nothing worse than finding yourself in the weeds, with no way to get out. The room gets very hot, very fast, and you will want to throw up. And really, who wants a barfing hairdresser?

4. Don’t keep the next client waiting. Everyone's time is valuable to them. If you're running behind then tell your next client and let them decide whether to stay or re-schedule. (We had a guy who worked at our place who made clients wait hours past their appointments, and it was just awful to watch. He was a power-tripping little turd.)

5. Bangs are kryptonite to hairdressers. A fine haircut can take a harsh turn real fast when the bangs go wrong. One stealth cowlick can ruin a perfectly good day.

6. Never talk anyone into something they don’t want. Okay, this one I learned through hard experience. Even if you KNOW she's going to look amazing when you're done, a client in tears is bad for your PR. Another person's head is not the stage for your performance art. Let her think about it and get back to you.

7. One inch is one inch. And not one smidgen more. If a client wants an inch off, do it. (I have, however, been known to wave my scissors over the head of a client who only wants "a half a centimeter off", because it would look exactly the same as if I actually cut it.)

8. Nutjobs look like anyone else. Don't be fooled by the nice clothes and the expert makeup. Like serial killers, crazy clients seem perfectly normal at first. Except for.....

9. Brides are psycho. It's just a fact of life. Even if things are going along swimmingly, the average bride will find something to spazz out about, and it has nothing to do with you.

10. Children’s haircuts speed is more important than accuracy. When cutting children's hair, you should start and proceed so that you could stop at almost any point in the haircut and it would still look okay. Because, like brides, children are psycho.

11. Hair is attached to a person. We often say that if all we had to do was the hair, our jobs would be very easy. Unfortunately, one also has to contend with the person under the hair. Most of the time, that is a genuine pleasure, but sometimes, it is hard, stinking work.

12. Never underestimate how ridiculous clients can be. Like the client who wanted a curling iron set to last through a wash and blowdry, there are no boundaries to what you will be asked to do. Just when you think you've seen it all, you will get someone who wants their hair to defy the laws of biology, or come to their house to have you cut their hair, or change their mind midway through the procedure ("is it too late to do something else?") Be prepared for anything.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kibbles and Bits, Yet Again

Things Going On At The Loudshoes House Lately.

Last night, as I was diligently working on the computer (read: wasting ginormous amounts of time on "Bookworm") I heard a noise from outside that made me sit up and take notice. (read: stop trying to figure out how to make the word "aquaduct" without a "d".) I went out the back door to see Toby charging after a very slow, but nonetheless, impressively brawny raccoon. This thing was huge, easily the size of a Buick, I'd say, and there was all 9 pounds of Toby, hissing and puffing up and squawking, chasing the raccoon up the locust tree. I stomped on Toby's leash and hauled him inside right quick. Lucky for Toby, that was the dumbest raccoon God ever made, because if he had thought about it for one second, he'd have rounded on Toby and thoroughly kicked his ass. Toby was mightily pissed at me for taking him away from his triumph, but he doesn't have to pay the vet bills, and I do. So there.

I was driving home from the other end of town this afternoon, and while at a red light, looked in my rear view mirror to see my friend Mary Hickey in the van behind me. I start waving and "woo-hoo"ing and generally calling all sorts of attention to myself, and then realize that the bewildered woman behind me is not Mary Hickey after all. But all the other people around me waved.

A young woman I work with went to Saskatchewan last weekend to visit her boyfriend, who's temporarily working in a small town near Saskatoon. (When she told us the town had 250 people in it, another woman I work with remarked that she's been to weddings bigger than that.) She liked the place well enough (said it was just like "Corner Gas") but said that it was fairly unremarkable. One thing she noticed, though, it's so flat that "at night?, you can look straight ahead and still see stars".

Monday, October 6, 2008

Amazing Race 13 Ep. 2

Goodbye Nearly Anonymous Couple Who Will Never Get Married Now. I think she should take note that in the "Things I Am Grateful For" list, she came in fourth. After "his looks". Not exactly a keeper, if you ask me.

Terrance is one big fat baby, no? Honestly, what grown man says things like "If you would be so kind as to blow on it", let alone a boo-boo the size of a Who. He has managed to out-hissy Mirna, and that is really saying something. Sarah's not much better; "and they didn't even say hi to us!"

Is it just me, or did that whole episode at the airport gate seem bizarre? He and NFL guy were getting all up in each other's faces, and then they were kissing and hugging like Grade 7 girls. Ken is the new Spazz-Wrangler.

I also liked the part when he wanted to get ice cream and Sarah said "sure, because we're sightseeing". Maybe he just needed a nap. Or a Midol.

Wow, that Tina has magical powers. Did you hear that she "made" the airline pony up for a bigger plane? She kinda reminds me of Endora.
When Tina washes her face at night, what do you think happens to her eyebrows? They are disturbing, to say the least, when they are drawn on with an apparently very sharp little pencil, but when they are gone, I'd say it's even scarier.

I very much like the two comic book geeks, even if they do appear to be very sweaty. They rocked that detour task, even though it would have had me tearing my hair out in nanoseconds. And when they said "Do, or not do. There is no try.", Thing 1 turned to me in amazement and said "that's what you always say!". I think she thought I made that up myself.

Thing 1 and I were howling at the the Divorcees digging in the sand for their "container", since said container was the size of a bus, and probably not immediately under their feet. (I know they didn't know the "container" was that big, but it still made us laugh.)

One of my favorite moments of the night: when Aja yelled "aw, hay-yell" coming up to the Pit Stop.

Phil in his yummy orangy-red shirt was seriously distracting.

Until next week!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mashed Potatoes

I always thought everyone knew how to make proper mashed potatoes until I ate at a couple of places where the people in charge of mashed potatoes were clearly not up to the task. (And one place was a very fancy-shmancy restaurant in town, where I was tempted to march into the kitchen and make my own mashed potatoes.) Who knew it was so easy to screw something so simple, so elementary, up beyond belief? Now it is my mission to educate the world on the making of the humble mashed potato. It's not rocket science.

First, start with the right potatoes. For the love of all that is holy, never, ever buy something called “white” or “table” or “all-purpose” potatoes. They might technically be potatoes, but they’re useless. Buy “russet” or “Yukon Gold”.

Now, for two reasonably hungry people, peel 3 or 4 medium sized spuds and cut them into halves; cut each half into 8. Put them in a medium sized pot and put in enough water to just come to the top of the potatoes. A couple of bits sticking out of the water is okay. Now put the pot onto, medium heat and get it to the boil. When it’s boiling, turn the heat down until it’s bubbling but not furiously. Put the lid on the pot so that it’s slightly off-kilter (so it won’t boil over.) and let the potatoes cook until you can put a knife easily through one. (About 20 minutes.)

Now, drain the water off. Now drain them again. Give them a shake and drain one more time. You want as much water as possible out of that pot. Put the pot with the potatoes on low heat with the lid off, and let the heat dry out the spuds for a minute or two. (Careful not to burn.)

When the potatoes are really dry, get out the masher and go to them. Mash until you’ve gotten most of the lumps out, but don’t worry if you have a few.
At this point, you’re going to start using a wooden spoon, but if you want really smooth potatoes, use a mixer now.
Add about one or two tablespoons of butter and stir until melted. Now add a little bit of milk, cream or chicken stock (no more than a couple of tablespoons at a time.)and stir. Keep adding liquid until you’ve reached the consistency you want. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. (Always add the fat before the liquid, otherwise you will get grainy potatoes.)

Serve these right away.
I usually do the mashed potatoes right before sitting down to eat…they don’t keep for long. (You can put the lid on them on the turned-off-but-warm-burner for about 15 or 20 minutes) I tend to cook the spuds and either leave them in the hot water for a little bit, until I’m ready, or I drain them and leave the lid on and keep them on the turned-off-but-still-warm-burner, and that usually buys me 10 to 15 minutes or so.

There. That is my deed to benefit all mankind. I feel like Bono.