Mashed potatoes Taiwan style

I got an email today from a 19-year-old guy from Taiwan who had lived with us last year as part of an exchange program. Mostly we exchanged Snickers bars for packs of dried sea weed, and an occasional situational analysis through the prism of his Buddhism perspective. We learned that “it will work out” and “war is not the answer.”  It was a good year.

D. wrote me to find out how to make mashed potatoes. He wanted to impress his family with an American Thanksgiving, and mashed potatoes turned out the deal breaker – from the turkey to the cranberry sauce nothing else seemed to give him pause. Or maybe he wasn’t planning on making them. But mashing must have left a serious dent in his subconscious after we had enslaved him to produce enough for 40. With an industrial ricer.

How do you explain to someone in Taiwan the concept of “go to your neighborhood Target and buy a masher?” It should look like a branding iron? Or even better – placing everything into a Kitchenaid and “fluffing it up?” A fork can always be the last resort – but do they have any handy? Anyone ever mashed potatoes with a pair of chop sticks?

It’s amazing how such a simple concept can become so complex when transcending cultures. How would they know if it comes out lumpy? Would they care?

I couldn’t find a good way to gauge his expectations, to provide him with a mashed potatoes swatch other than hope his taste buds remembered what he’d tasted here. But I had to do something. He relied on my host-motherly expertise in the matter. So I concluded my page-long email with,

“If in doubt, just add butter.”

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