How Potatoes Saved My Life

This is a very simple bit of prose. It has no earth-shattering, moral lesson.  It’s just a simple story about how potatoes saved my life when I was a teenager at Far Rockaway High School. Recently, I was reminded of it while observing the usual stresses of adolescence now that my granddaughters are teenagers. No one ever quite prepared me for being thirteen. That was the year I got my nervous stomach. It also was the year I discovered that mashed potatoes could make me feel better than talking to a guidance counselor. Although potatoes were a forbidden fruit for me as a chubby kid, watching the school cafeteria chef dole out ladles full of mashed potatoes was a favorite pastime. With a flourish, the chef would carve out a cradle, so to speak, in the mash into which she ladled gravy.  Under strict parental supervision, I did not have permission to indulge in such a caloric feast as mashed potatoes, let alone make a meal of it. However, the year I turned thirteen was the year that nothing else appealed to me but those mashed potatoes that the skinny kids seemed to eat with no remorse. Hold the gravy, I would say, mostly to assuage my guilt. If only my mother knew I ate mashed potatoes for lunch every day she would have declared herself unfit or at the very least a failure. The truth is that there probably is a lesson somewhere in this story after all. Perhaps it is that a nervous stomach trumps a ban on carbs. Or maybe if a not-so-slim girl can eat mashed potatoes and feel good about it, no telling what else she could do unlearning the many taboos of childhood. As it is for most teens, thirteen was my liberation year.