Friday, September 16, 2011


When I was young my siblings and I were given chores to do.  Homework took a front seat during the week so the chore list was light during those days.  Saturdays were the big chore day.  That was the day most of the house cleaning was done as well as outdoor chores concerning the lawn care.  My parents were fairly equal in dividing the chores up between the four of us.  There were exceptions that could get you out of chores.  Having a job was one of those exceptions so there was a period of time when I would look at my two sisters and see them not having to do as many chores as I had to do.  It might just be my imagination but being the baby of the family got you out of a lot of chores as well.

There was a time when I did not have a job and I wasn't the baby of the family and it felt like the chores were really piled up on me.  Of course, I have to hand it to my little brother as he was rather imaginative in the way he got out of a lot of chores.  He best move was getting out of helping with the dinner dish washing and cleanup.  It would seem that every night after dinner he would all of a sudden have to go to the bathroom for an hour or so until the dishes were done.

I would approach the chores in of three ways.  The first way to approach chores was doing them for approval from my mom and dad.  I could attack a chore with enthusiasm and get it over with in the correct way in a timely manner.  The second way would be to not attack the chore at all but rather just let time slide by while I hid somewhere to read a book or listen to some music.  This would stretch a chore out all day at times and usually ended up with me getting my self in trouble from a frustrated mother who just wanted me to dust the furniture, a chore that ordinarily would take about an hour if you did it right, thirty minutes if you tried to cut corners or all day of you just didn't want to do it.  The third and final way was to approach doing the chore with anger.  Usually this resulted in the chore getting done but at super speed with a lot of things being slung around in the course of doing the chore.  Usually the chore would not be done correctly and would have to be redone again and there was always the backlash attitude from my parents that came with doing a chore with an angry disposition.

It was this last approach to doing chores that I usually took when having to help fix dinner.  Helping with dinner chores just set wrong with me.  Maybe it was my sexist attitude what I had when I was growing up.  I could look and see plainly that my dad never had to do dinner chores nor did my grandfather.  Dinner chores or kitchen chores were for the women.  In spite of this belief I was constantly called on to do kitchen chores or help with dinner.

There were several times when having me do chores in the kitchen turned into somewhat of a time waster.  This was one of those times.

Back in the day, companies that made cookware discovered that making pots and pans out of aluminum might be a good idea.  Aluminum was inexpensive being far less expensive than stainless steel products.  Aluminum was lightweight making it easy for to handle pots and pans while cooking or washing.

The property of aluminum that I discovered in the kitchen was that it was also a very soft material.  I guess the companies that manufactured aluminum pats and pans didn't think testing what the softness of an aluminum pot could do when test under extreme conditions.  One of mom's aluminum pans was about to undergo an extra extreme condition testing and the hands of me.

The chore was not a difficult one.  It was given to me to mash the potatoes one day.  It wasn't a difficult chore to do.  You would simply drain the water from the potatoes, add a little salt to them along with some milk and use an electric hand held mixer to mash them up.  You didn't even have the inconvenience of using a hand masher to do it like my grandmother use to.  You just stand there and let the potatoes run through the beaters until they were creamy smooth.  Not difficult and certainly not a big deal.

For some reason though it was a big deal on the day in question.  I did not want to mash the potatoes. I don't think I was really angry when I started the chore but there certainly was a part of me that did not want to do it.  I mashed the potatoes for a short while and then, per the rules, had mom come over to check them.  They were lumpy.  I would have to stand there a little longer mashing these stupid things.  I went after them a little harder hoping to get them creamy enough but the next time mom checked, they were still lumpy.  More milk was added and I was told to mash them a little longer.

I began to attack the potatoes with the hand mixer.  I would make them creamy no matter how hard they resisted.  I started going at every angle I could think of to get the lumps lined up with the beaters to smooth them out.  No matter how hard I tried though, lumps were avoiding getting broken down into nice soft potatoes.  Once again mom checked and indicated a little more mixing was required.

It was time for an all out attack on the potatoes.  I went after every bit of potato I could find.  I scraped the potatoes off the side of the pot to get them all down into the mix.  I made sure I brought the potatoes that were resting lazily on the bottom of the pot up to the top by pushing those beaters as deep as I could until they were scraping bottom leaving no little piece of potato untouched.

It was a noisy operation but I could see that it was working.  The lumps were gradually disappearing under the assault I was throwing at them.  They wee turning a creamy smooth and so I kept going at it determined that I would not have to return to this chore again.  This would be the final time I would have to stand over this particular pot of potatoes and whip them.

After several minutes of grinding and mixing and pursuing any lumps that might be left I was satisfied that we had never had creamier potatoes than the ones I had just finished with.  So with confidence I called my mother over to inspect them one last time.

I watched her face as she inspected the pot.  Yes, they were creamy, nol lumps but there was something odd about these potatoes.  She carried the pot over to the sink and dipped out a spoonful of these lumpless potatoes.  Then in a tone of disbelief she told me in a soft voice that the potatoes were green.  She said it a couple of more times in part to convince herself that what she was seeing was real I think.  She had me look at them and asked me if they looked green to me.

I looked real close and I had to admit to her that yes, there was definitively a small touch of green to potatoes that should have been white. How could this happen?  What had happened?  One look at the sides of the soft aluminum pot told the story.  That pan was shinier than the day she had bought it.  Apparently when aluminum mixes with potatoes the chemical reaction is to turn the potatoes a slightly greenish color like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

The more she looked at them the more she realized that we would not be able to consume these for dinner that night.  She got a little irritated with me for over doing it and for not being in the right frame of mind to mash the potatoes.  I was beginning to think that maybe there was something not so safe about cooking with aluminum.

The potatoes were thrown out and we did not have potatoes that night which did not make my dad very happy.  What made him even less happy was when mom explained to him why we were not having potatoes that night.

I can't remember for sure but I don't think I got in too much trouble that night over the potatoes.  Sure my attitude wasn't the best but then again, who would have suspected that a person could mash potatoes so hard as to turn them green?  The event was never forgotten and is often pulled up as one of the family stories.  I can deal with that.  I do think that the next set of pans that mom got were stainless steel instead of aluminum.

1 comment:

  1. I never heard that story at all. And, by the way, Bo used to pull the bathroom after dinner trick as well! :)