Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Helen & Ed Stories I: Potato Wars

Last night after dinner we were telling stories around Jan and Jake's new fire pit and I unearthed several of "Helen and Ed Stories." I have decided to post a series of stories about Gregory's parents, Helen and Ed, and the many wonderful, funny, as well as devastating experiences that I have had with his parents over the twenty five years or so that they were alive while Gregory and I have been together.  The challenge will be translating my "oral history" into "written discourse." You be the judge. Comment, won't you?


Gregory and I were in Battle Creek, Michigan to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with his family. The dinner was to be at Mark and Diane's, Gregory's next older brother and his wife. Like most family holiday meals everyone arrived early to visit, watch TV, and to help get dinner on the table.

Helen offered to peel the potatoes. There were ten pounds of potatoes because the Maire Family can never get enough of those delicious, buttery, fluffy mashed potatoes. There were also a few sweet potatoes ... but ahh those white mashed ones.

Diane set Helen up at the table by spreading newspapers for the peelings, dumping the ten pound bag of potatoes on the side, and placing the potato peeler in front of Helen. By now Helen did most of her cooking sitting at the table in a chair or at the counter on a stool. She must have been 80 years old or so.

"Dear, please get me a paring knife," requested Helen.

"I would prefer you to use the potato peeler, Helen," replied Diane.

"I would prefer to use a paring knife, if you don't mind."

"A potato peeler is easier and will waste less of the potato."

"I have been peeling potatoes for sixty years now with a paring knife and I believe that I know what I am doing."

Sensing that she was loosing the battle Diane graciously gave in and put a paring knife on the table. I would guess that while the love between them was not at all compromised, they were going though what many mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law experience over the years of their relationship: Competition!

Whether Helen was that much of an expert or if she was extra careful to show Diane, the potatoes were peeled very carefully with very little potato left on the skin peelings. Later, while Helen and Diane were involved in discussing the finer points of how to make gravy, I crossed the peeler and the knife in front of the pile of potato peelings on the newspaper, took a picture, and called it "Potato Wars!" Then I cleaned up the mess and helped set the table.

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