This Thanksgiving I am really thankful that BS does not have a Thanksgiving Feast at school.
Now don't get me wrong. Usually I have no problem with them, the feasts that is. Actually I love feasts more when they are hosted by a third party.
In all her pre-school years, the teacher would put up a sign up sheet behind the door a week before the party and the parents would pick anything from that list to get for the feast. The school was paranoid about food allergy in a good way and no cooked food from home was ever allowed. The list was always always made up of boxed or packaged items, juice, fruits and paper products. The school supplied the rest.
Her school since last year is no less paranoid about food and does not even accept home baked cake etc. for birthdays.
So last year when her teacher sent home a list a week before Thanksgiving with a tick and my name against Mashed Potatoes, I was flummoxed. With despair I looked at the Paper Products, Table Cloth, Juice boxes, Apple slices all there on the list but nary a tick for me on any of them but Mashed Potatoes.
Why me ? I said silently and soon after I said 20 "Hail Marys". I mean shouldn't I be thankful that after all it was only mashed potatoes and not a whole stuffed turkey.
And what after all is Mashed Potatoes ? Nothing but what in Bengali we call Alu Seddho and what I ate for breakfast with rice and ghee for the first eight years of my life until the doctor intervened.
Alu Seddho or Alu Bhaate with a hint of mustard oil, finely chopped red onion and green chili, served with steaming rice, light masoor dal and a spoonful of flavorful ghee is after all every Bengalis comfort food. My Ma could make it with her eyes closed. Why, even my Dad could make it with his eyes open and that speaks volumes about the ease of the dish.If I had doubts about mashed potatoes I would be putting my Bong upbringing to shame.
So I said "Hah" and promptly forgot all about it.
However as the day dawned near I started having my doubts. Logical doubts based on real life. Doubts like would BS's classmate take to mustard oil like fish takes to water ? Was it ok to put finely chopped raw red onion in food served to 20 odd kids, half of whom probably had never seen an onion in life ? What if their parents sued me because the green chili was too hot or the mustard oil caused them to sneeze ?
So, I sent her teacher a mail asking what kind of Mashed Potatoes they preferred, Asian-Indian or American-Indian ?
The teacher said I need not worry too much and I could pick any American recipe.
So, of course I googled and each recipe of mashed potato looked worse than the other. I mean, milk, heavy cream and cream cheese in your mashed potato ? Why would you need two sticks of butter to make a potato taste good, hello, who set up that rule? What was I doing here, trying to teach kids spell O-B-E-S-I-T-Y?
Chop potato in quarters. Boil in pressure cooker or in an open pan. You can also microwave. When the potatoes are done, cool and peel the skin. Mash the potatoes with a masher or your hands. Add few drops of mustard oil, very finely chopped red onion, very finely chopped green chili, salt to taste. Work everything together. Make uneven, rustic looking balls and serve with steaming rice and ghee.
So, there I am again, e-mailing the teacher, asking which exact recipe she wanted me to follow.
Was Alton Brown's mashed potatoes with garlic good enough ? Did she want cream cheese or just milk and butter was fine ? What potatoes did she think would cut the deal, Russet or Yukon Gold ? How many times should I wash my hand and was Bath & Body Anti-bacterial better than Purell ?Did she even know how much a bag of Yukon Gold cost ? I mean, what is wrong with Idaho, I make Alu Seddho with Idaho and they are very good.
At this point I am sure the teacher must have hollered a few choice words at me in confinement of her school's staff room. In a very polite mail, she suggested I just buy mashed potatoes at the super market and send it to school.
Trust me, till that time the e-mail arrived I did not know that they sold mashed potatoes in the Super Market. Yes, mashed potatoes in a tub or in a box, microwaveable and ready to eat. I could see before my eyes, Manju'r ma, my Ma's house help, losing an opportunity to be the next Martha Stewart simply because she did not know to package and market alu seddho. My eyes welled up at the opportunity lost and I cried fat tears right there at one of the aisles in the frozen section of Shop Rite or was it Wegman's.
Ok, I actually cried because there were so much to choose from. I came home with tons of mashed potato boxes, some with sweet potatoes, some with garlic and chive, some plain, some organic, some in tubs while others in flat boxes. The hubby not trusting my choices had made his own detour and came home with boxes which had dehydrated mashed potato flakes. Where do they need that now ? NASA maybe ?
Our dinner table overflowed with boxes of mashed potatoes of all kinds. We finally narrowed down to the kind we thought would serve the school
And BS claimed she loved mashed potatoes the way her Didun made.
This year I don't remember the exact brand which we had sent to school and I would have to start all over again. But the school authorities had enough of my mails last year and this year second graders are not having a Thanksgiving feast.
Honestly, it is not my fault.
Ok, and today, at around midnight, I baked this zebra cake from this wonderful blog. The midnight part is not as important as the "I baked" part. It was an easy cake to bake and was quiet good to eat too. I found it a little less sweet for the kids liking so next time I am going to up the sugar. For now I did a cream cheese and chocolate frosting to enhance the sweetness.
Happy ThanksGiving folks, if you are celebrating. If not, just be thankful.