Sunday, January 1, 2012

Making use of potatoes

Our first Christmas tree in our new home is beautiful in its simplicity. A few ornaments, candy canes and Christmas cards adorn the branches of a six foot Fraser Fir purchased for a few dollars at a roadside stand. Three hundred lights strung around the tree give it a magical glow visible through the living room window at night. And thanks to the thoughtfulness of a special young lady, a large red bow perched atop the tree has given it character that no glowing star could achieve.

Is it a perfect tree? No. There is an area to the left of the tree where the branches are bent slightly, giving it the illusion of a gap in its side. But the tree has been the perfect addition to Poet’s Cottage during this holiday season. The tree’s scent, vibrant green branches and, yes, its imperfections have endeared it to my daughter and me.

I will be saddened to remove it in a few days.

Stewed Potatoes
I recently purchased two bags of potatoes, a buy one get one free deal at the local grocery store. There are a lot of ways to make use of potatoes. My father’s specialty go to meal was stew beef, cornbread and stewed potatoes (that’s what he called them). He followed no recipe. Basically, he diced a few potatoes then tossed them into a pot coated with a little vegetable oil. He then filled the pot with enough water that left about two to three inches between the surface of the water and the potatoes. Boiling the potatoes slowly on a medium high setting was necessary to deter sticking. Finally, he seasoned his stewed potatoes with a stick of butter, salt and pepper prior to serving.

My father discarded the nutrient laden potato skins and, admittedly, I used to discard the skins too. Figuring in the frugal factor, I now bake the skins whenever a recipe calls for me to peel a potato. Here’s the recipe I use for baked potato skins:

Tater Skins
Baked Potato Skins

1 stick of butter
2 garlic cloves (pressed or minced)
potato skins
black pepper & salt to taste

- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
- When the butter is hot and bubbling, add the garlic.
- Saute the garlic until softened and fragrant (about 2 to 3 minutes).
- Place the potato skins in a large bowl.
- Pour the garlic butter over the skins and toss in the bowl until coated evenly.
- Place each potato skin, skin side down, on a shallow baking sheet.
- Sprinkle generously with pepper.
- Sprinkle lightly with salt to taste.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake the skins for 30-45 minutes or until hot, crisp and golden.

Here’s one of my poems, a scene I observed a few years ago; an old couple, very much in love, living frugally.


They sit in a booth made for two,
thin, frail, toothless. . .
he, in bib overalls and a tattered flannel shirt,
she, in a faded blue dress and yellowed sweater,
dining on grilled cheese sandwiches and hush puppies,
drinking sweet iced tea out of styrofoam cups,
surrounded by a lunch crowd
on platefuls of Carolina pork barbecue
(the scent of hickory-smoked meat thick in the air).

She takes a paper napkin, reaches across the table,
wipes a spot of ketchup
from the corner of his mouth;
he smiles, winks,
stops the waitress,
orders two spoons
and a single-serving of banana pudding.
Their hands, spotted with age,
join in the center of the table;
their backs
curved by time
into a perfect bow.

Sketchbook - August 31, 2008, Vol. 3, No. 8


  1. Happy New Year and thanks for the simplicity of the stew and the engaging beauty of the poem. Andrea

  2. so many good friends
    so many New Year greetings
    the first burned pot
    ~~~Tonight I almost burned my potato as the water had boiled out of the pan while I was trying to catch up with all the love of good friends. But got it just in the nick of time when I saw the your post here and remembered that I had it on! I fixed it with my favorite cabbage/turnip/carrot soup with lots of caraway seeds. It was out of this world. How I love potatoes!

  3. You're a romantic at heart, I knew it!! Very nice.


  4. This spring, friends of mine, upon hearing that I hadn't tasted a Kennebec potato in too long, dropped off three barrels, some loam, and three Kennebec seed potatoes. All summer long I've been watching the vines grow up strong and lovely... finally flowering a few days ago. Then yesterday one of the vines I noticed had dried up completely. I was able to dig out my first home grown potatoes, simply by dipping my hands into the mounded earth. The really great treat about all this is that I can FINALLY eat the skins! since I know there have been no pesticides or chemicals treating them. MMMMMM good!