Photo by @mollyjean4
Thanksgiving 2020. What a year. Are we feeling grateful yet?! As I write this, I am 33-weeks pregnant. I will likely deliver early, bringing a delicate preemie into the midst of a global pandemic. COVID numbers are at an all time high across the country and in Europe, and we are two weeks out from a holiday that is all about gathering together. So you are probably asking yourself, is this lady really trying to preach about mashed potatoes and gravy right now? The answer is yes.
Mashed potatoes are the embodiment of comfort. They require just a handful of ingredients, can be made in a giant batch, or on a smaller scale, and take very little skill to get right. Plus, they are incredibly forgivable; if they end up lumpy just add a little (read: a lot) extra butter and sour cream and you are good to go.
My intent of this little treatise is to make a case for making mashed potatoes, no matter your holiday plans. I am no public health expert, but personally, we will be spending this holiday alone. With a delivery date looming, we can’t take the risk of gathering with family during these “unprecedented times”. (There, I said it, it wouldn’t be 2020 without calling out the old ‘UT’ as we have lovingly dubbed this dumpster fire of a year in my household.) That being said, will there be mashed potatoes on my dinner table on Thanksgiving? Heck, yes. Turkey I can probably take or leave, but buttery spuds are happening.
During ‘normal’ years, I spend the holiday cooking with one of my three sisters, Susan. We rile each other up, bringing our menu and kitchen task list to new heights each year. The number of side dishes we prepare is insane. Truly. And we, of course, cook not one, but two turkeys. There are usually 3-4 pies, and most likely a homemade ice cream or two. It is one of my most favorite days of the year. To spend the day surrounded by family, cooking for no other reason than to nourish them with food made with love and celebrate how lucky we are to have one another brings me a tremendous amount of joy.
This year, in September, we lost a pillar of our family, my brother-in-law Teddy, Susan’s husband. Teddy made feeling grateful easy. He loved his family fiercely, he celebrated his blessings on a daily basis and he relished the joy of the everyday. In many ways, Teddy may have been my biggest fan when it came to food. He appreciated good food, good IPAs and good times together. And he loved my mashed potatoes. His holiday plate was always somewhat of a spectacle; the family once-a-year china (why are fancy plates so small?) would be piled so high with food, you’d think there was no way he’d ever finish it all until you saw him go back for seconds. He’d be sure to take an extra long run the morning of Thanksgiving so he was prepared to enjoy just enough of everything. He had this thing called life figured out.
Although I can’t celebrate with him, or my family this year, I am making mashed potatoes in his memory. I am making them because they are much more than just a side dish, they are holiday nostalgia, they are solace, they are a little taste of ‘normal’ in a very abnormal year. So without further ado, here is my tried and true recipe for Mashed Potatoes and Gravy.
-Molly Adams, Senior Food Editor