White or Brown?

Husband and I recently drove to Denver for his father’s  funeral.  Denver is a 10 hour drive for us, so we stopped in Newcastle, WY as a half-way point there and back. Newcastle is an old mining town, and still is dominated by extraction industries.  It has some beautiful scenery, and lots of wildlife. Mule deer wander around on Main Street. There are elk nearby.

We ate at a pizza and steak house the first night we stayed in Newcastle. I ordered a sirloin with mashed potatoes. The waitress asked me “white or brown?” I was a little puzzled by the question, but assumed that she was referring to the type of potato I wanted my mashed potatoes made from. It made me think that I was dining in a pretty fancy establishment that took such care with mashed potatoes. I  said “white”.  Imagine my surprise when my meal arrived with a nice steak and a lofty pile of mashed potatoes smothered in gloppy white gravy. White and brown in this restaurant refer to gravy, not potato varieties! I want only butter on my mashed potatoes, and I left the potatoes untouched and concentrated on my steak.

I talked with relatives at the funeral about my gravy debacle, and the only one who had experience with “white or brown” was a step-nephew  by marriage from Texas.  Something was lost in translation for me in Newcastle, but now that I know what the code means, I can order mashed potatoes with confidence!

When have things been lost in translation for you? How do you like your mashed potatoes? How do you make mashed potatoes?

49 thoughts on “White or Brown?”

  1. I love mashed potatoes! Real mashed potatoes, preferably with sufficient lumps that evidence the actual presence of a spud in the mash. None of that babyfood smooth puree for me, thanks. Alas, my parents didn’t share my enthusiasm for lumpy mashed potatoes, so we managed during their one and only visit to our home, to get off on the wrong foot, and frankly, we never recovered. They hated everything I cooked, and left the US convinced that I had tried to kills them with my lack of cooking skills.

    To this day, I can’t eat mashed potatoes without thinking of them. Now I can laugh about it, but forty years ago, it sure was hard to see the humor in it all.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How sad your parents couldn’t appreciate your efforts and creations. Our son has become an excellent cook. Yesterday he made a green salad with goat cheese, prosciutto, grilled peaches, almonds, and balsamic fig vinaigrette. He can cook for me any time. Daughter is 9 years younger and following in his cooking footsteps.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I only add butter and maybe a splash of milk to my mashed potatoes. And, like PJ, I like them a bit lumpy. No gravy. If I am feeling fancy, I may mash in a bit of parsnip or rutabaga with the taters.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I make my mashed potatoes with lots of butter and a little milk. When I make them for shepherd’s pie, I usually include a sweet potato with the russets.
    As for what is lost to me in translation, I would have to say popular culture. Standing in the grocery checkout, where all the popular culture magazines are displayed, I never have any idea who any of those people on the covers are.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. OT – Today, August 1st is the day that the squatters are supposed to vacate the house next door. At six o’clock this morning they had a big bonfire in the back yard. I have no idea what the house looks like on the inside at this point, but the back yard still has a boat and five junk cars, plus a two-car garage stuffed to the gills with miscellaneous junk. It feels like I have a front row seat to an unfolding disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. During his first visit to the US, my father-in-law encountered chicken fried steak on the menu of a small restaurant somewhere in South Dakota. His English language skills were somewhat limited, and somehow the “chicken fried” bit had not registered with him at all. When the waitress presented his plate, complete with mashed potatoes and brown gravy, he sat there in stunned silence for a moment before he recovered. He then rudely summoned the hapless waitress back to their table by snapping his fingers. Pointing to his chicken fried steak he asked: “What’s that?” The question was posed in the tone of voice he’d use to shame a dog that had peed on the floor. Husband, at this point, was trying to blend into the woodwork, he wanted no part of this exchange, and was hoping that the waitress would let him have it. But, bless her heart, she patiently explained what he had ordered, and kindly offered to bring him something else if this didn’t look appealing to him. He settled on a hamburger.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Rise and Mash the Potatoes, Baboons,

    Mash Potatoes—a mix of Yukon gold and white russets with a few lumps a some potato skin. I use olive oil instead of butter to increase healthy fats. Then I put a pat of butter on top. I love gravy if it is homemade good gravy, but not commercial canned gravy. That said, I do not make it much any more, but I do make good gravy.

    Lost in translation? My late Mother-in-law’s definition of what “salad” is was much different than mine. Hers usually meant jello, marshmallows, cool whip. It was sickenly sweet and full of additives no one needs to eat. But then MIL and I seemed to have a lot of problems with translation. My idea of a “good life” was so much different than hers.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. My daughter in law made mashed potatoes once using yukon gold or some other waxy potatoes. They were not very fluffy, to say the least. Son, ever the diplomat, praised her for her creation, and we ate them so as to not hurt her feelings.


    1. I think another problem was the recipe, which involved using a slow cooker to cook the potatoes and keep them warm. The potatoes were sticky and had a weird texture.


      1. Probably in the slow cooker the potatoes hung on to a lot of the starch that would have been released if they were boiled. The idea of using a slow cooker is weird anyway. Why take something that only takes a few minutes and stretch it out into hours?

        Liked by 3 people

  8. One of our grocery stores has been trying to sell Georgia peaches. People have been buying them because of the name, but they are awful as they don’t travel well. I stopped by the cherry and peach man’s truck yesterday. He transports Washington and Idaho peaches and Washington and Montana cherries through town every week. We will have peach pie this weekend. Our local stores , for some reason, mainly bring in California fruit, and it just isn’t very good.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Growing up we usually had mashed potatoes with our Sunday midday meal. I didn’t like them and left them for last on my plate. By then they were cold and lumpy – not edible at all. I can remember sitting at the table in tears with my plate of lumpy potatoes while Mom was doing dishes.One of the school lunches served was mashed potatoes with hamburger gravy. In the time it took from being in line to sitting down, the gravy had congealed – you could turn your tray over and the food would stick. I still don’t care for mashed potatoes and never make them or order them if eating out. If I am at someone’s house and they are served, I will take a small amount with butter on top but they better not have a single lump in them or I am done. As to gravy – I don’t like it in or on anything except my sister’s home made Swedish meatballs.

    I also am not a fan of baked potatoes unless they are small and have thin skins. None of those huge Idaho bakers with thick jackets for this gal!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love, but rarely make, mashed potatoes, and I eat them with just butter unless it’s Thanksgiving. My favorite way to eat potatoes lately is baked, and first slathered with olive oil, crushed rosemary, and some parmesan cheese.

    There’s a lot of “lost in translation” lately, esp. since we don’t use a smart phone, or text. People (and other entities) often just assume everyone does, and so we’ll find we aren’t included in certain events or communications. Oh well, it’s still our choice at this point, but I sometimes wonder how long we’ll be able to hold out.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. When I traveled the great plains (ND, SD, MT, NE, ID) I kept seeking a vegetable cooked sensibly or a healthy green salad. I never found either. I was repeatedly frustrated by restaurants promoting “salad bars.” What they considered a salad was usually a dish featuring piles of pasta, dishes with gobs and gobs of mayonnaise or maybe a jello salad with a little grated cabbage in it. I assume the dining scene has improved recently, but I never once found vegetables prepared as I liked them.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I learned how to peel potatoes from Mom. I can peel faster than Kelly can. Because I get to eat some raw slices too then.
    I pretty much grew up with boiled potatoes with butter on top. Kelly prefers mashed, but smooth. I’m not a fan of lumps. We don’t do gravy often; it feels fancy if we have gravy.
    And lately, there’s a boxed (I know, Heresy!) garlic mashed potatoe that we really like.
    I haven’t dug in the straw bales yet to see if I got any potatoes. Lots of vines. Should be something down there.

    My brother recently helped my 93 yr old mom set up a new email account. She’s still checking the old account though, to be sure things don’t get lost in there. And she really can’t understand why Facebook is still sending things to the old account. (Just the notification that I or my brother or a sister has posted things.) She’s having a hard time understanding WE’RE not sending to the old account and it’s just FB. And we’ve tried to tell her we can change the notification email but she doesn’t want them anyway.
    Once she said to me “It’s not all the same thing?” Facebook and email?? No… She puzzled over that for a while.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ben, I keep encountering new twists on the old message that life is getting too complicated for the elderly. Recent example: I’m blocked from seeing my online banking accounts. The bank will send me a key to open access, but it can only come as a text message. And of course, I have a landline phone. My printer died, I have to solve about four problems before I can sell my car, and I’m struggling to get Michigan medical notes sent to Minnesota. Everything we do these days is hedged in by strict security safeguards, with one result it is almost impossible to do even simple things. Pardon my rant.

      Liked by 5 people

        1. My daughter keeps telling me that I don’t need a mobile phone. But about once a week I encounter some person or agency that assumes I have one and is confused by my reluctance to get one.

          Liked by 3 people

  13. Mashed potatoes are made with butter and milk. I usually like the Yukon Gold for mashed because they turn out fluffy and tasty I thought. And making mashed potatoes in the crockpot was a game-changer on Thanksgiving. Trying to get everything to the table hot and tasty at the same time is a challenge to this non-cook, so the crockpot was a great help in that department. Honestly, I couldn’t tell much difference and neither could the boys. Gravy is great!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I Iove potatoes in just about any form, but I’m not keen on gravy on mashed potatoes. I like to dunk French fries in a good brown gravy (something I am told is referred to as “wets”) or the Canadian version of that, poutine.

    My mother at done point found a recipe for crock pot mashed potatoes that can be frozen. Since my dad’s garden always had plenty of potatoes and they had no cellar, being able to “freeze” potatoes was useful (and they are good, I believe there might be some sour cream in them).

    I’m growing potatoes in 5gallon buckets this year, one each red, white, and blue.

    The plants have been very enthusiastic. Fingers crossed that this means there will be a lot of potatoes.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. My dad loved potatoes. It was a rare meal at our house that didn’t include them. In fact, I recall dad proclaiming at the dinner table that he could eat potatoes each and every day and never tire of them. This despite the fact that we rarely had them any other way than boiled to death and slathered in brown gravy. French fries and baked potatoes were never served at our house, and mashed potatoes only rarely.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The country most associated with potatoes is probably Ireland, a relationship that turned tragic in the Great Famine of the late 1840s. I was surprised to learn that potatoes have a special role in Belgian cooking. The potato is the anchor of many Belgian meals, so much so that some folks feel no meal is complete without potatoes.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. I have a potato ricer, but I usually just use the stand mixer to mash potatoes. A little milk and lots of butter. Last Thanksgiving we had a guest that was vegan at my sister’s place, so we used vegan butter and vegan cream cheese in the potatoes. Turned out quite well.

    Quite honestly, though, the refrigerated mashed potatoes are much easier and as tasty as anything I can make.

    My mother used to make a white gravy when I was a kid. She would pan fry a ham steak and then make a roux using the drippings. Then she’d put in lots and lots of black pepper. That was wonderful gravy.


  16. My kitchen-challenged mother was proficient at mashed potatoes and we almost always had fried mashed potato patties the next day, to use up leftovers. I loved those although I’ll admit I never make them on my own these days. And I will admit that in addition to making mashed potatoes the real way (with hand masher), YA and I almost always have a pouch of the “add boiling water” potatoes somewhere in the cupboard. They are fast and easy when you don’t have time.


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