by Christie Perkins
Well, since I was newly married and highly unexperienced in meal dealing (but wanted to impress my beau with my presumed amazing cooking skills… ahem, yes, presumed) I offered to take the hashbrown portion of the meal.
And that was the first wrong step.
My guy helped peel and cube the potatoes. Now, in any ordinary circumstance I would have turned to the skimp-on-valuable-time method (thank you frozen bag section). But, since we were camping, a bag of potatoes was our current resource.
(Yes, I have issues with 40 minutes of prep work for a 3 minute shove down the hatch batch. Sigh.)
Now, I know the taste value of butter. So I reasoned and pleased my family with the “more is better” mentality. These were going to be heavenly. My tastebuds were headed into a craving coma already. I couldn’t wait. From here on out they will taste nothing that will come close to my heavenly hashbrowns. I can see it now, they will be talking about my skills for years to come.
And my vision of the heavenly hashbrowns down spiraled from there. But I didn’t know it yet.
I smiled slightly as I started treading new ground. I’m building a reputation here. Not that I had to impress anyone: I already had the guy, and I was already cemented in for eternity with the rest of the clan. My entire side of the family was there: mom, dad, brothers and spouses. So I had nothing to lose.
Well, except my hashbrown reputation.
Look, I’m a Cook!
I grabbed a dutch oven and turned on the camp chef. Oh check me out now. I even look like I can cook.
I plopped some butter (ok, well, it was an entire cube…lets be honest it made more of a thud) in the pan and added the potato cubes. Real hand peeled potatoes, real butter; real good.
So, um. This is where I learned about not stirring hashbrowns. Pretty soon my preconceived notion of the hashbrown turnout was a complete failure. Creamy crisp potatoes were now eerily formed into some gluey blue-y ball of a sci-fi glob-ish thing.
Or was it grey? Oh. I guess these magical hash browns color coordinate with your pan… or mood, apparently.
“These look disgusting.” I say.
“I’m sure they are fine,” Mom says with a cheerful smile on her face. Mom’s are always hopeful.
Smells from hickory fried fat and warmed sugary pancakes stirs the air. A vibrant pitcher of orange juice wets the appetite. It sits among its breakfast friends. But it is all interrupted by the blue-ish grey glob in the center of the table.
Erch. Appetite takes a hike.
We all to avoid the obvious elephant in the room. How are we going to get around eating…that? But, the tension eases a little when my brothers fulfill their duty and some mocking erupts from the outskirts.
“I wouldn’t eat it if I were you,” I try to escape any liability for any stomach or psychological casualties.
They laugh, “Naw, I’m sure it’s fine.” What is it with boys and food? Can’t they see it is not good? Everyone plops some on their plate.
Mom and Dad are the first to take a bite. The rest of us are trying to talk ourselves into this step of manhood. Mom’s eyes brighten up, “It’s good,” she says.
She looks believable so I take a bite and immediately regret it. I think Mom and Dad faked their way through the rest of the hashbrown blob. Maybe she’s thinking of all those times she made me eat her meals. It’s some kind of messed up payback for having to eat Shepherds Pie. We all trash ours, we are adults now and no one is making us eat it.
The trash is taken out, never to see the mysterious hashbrowns again.
Return of the Hashbrowns
Shortly after taking the trash outside we hear fighting erupt and hysterical laughing. I pop my head out of the trailer to see my little brother (who is an adult, mind you) with a fish net and my hashbrowns.
“The squirrels love this stuff,” he says, “watch this.”
There’s intense chatter from the chipmunks as they go to the knockout ring to win the prize. I’ve seen my brothers fight but it’s nothing compared to this. There’s stealing and squealing and the whipping of dust. But it’s a trap. Chipmunks find themselves swooped up in the fishnet; they scurvy and twist and get all tangled up. And now my brother is laughing and squealing and flipping up dust. He plays catch and release for who knows how long.
I bust up.
And suddenly I realize two things: 1-I have created some unresistable squirrel nip bait. 2-I am now the new cofounder of the chunky chipmunk problem.
Meh. Well, at least the chipmunks had a heavenly hashbrown meal. And, let’s face it, I’ve gotten off the hook for hashbrown cook for the last 15 years. It’s not all bad.
Recipe for Heavenly Hashbrowns (AKA Squirrel Nip)
Adapted from my brain- no, really, as in Christie Perkins’ brain (it’s a watch and learn thing…who knows who really invented these babies? I’m guessing they had better luck.)
Potatoes, cubed (tell bystander about your inability to use a knife without slicing fingers)
Butter- a cube
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dutch oven (very important for the greying effect)
Directions to avoid:
Divvy out assignment to peel and cube the potatoes while you inflate your head about your cooking skills. Have high hope for impressing. (Should I call these pride potatoes?)
Turn on the burner. Plop butter in dutch oven and add potatoes. You’ve got this. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Stir, and stir, and stir, and stir. Very important step to make it gluten glob like.
Plop in dish, then quickly toss out before appetite loss. Take the garbage outside in camping area. Watch and wait. They’ll take the bait you accidentally made.
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