Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, the informant’s grandmother would make mashed potatoes from an old family recipe. “We Irish love our potatoes,” she said. The recipe isn’t written down anywhere. Her grandmother only passes it down on her side of the family, and in order to memorize the recipe correctly, one must memorize how the potatoes taste when they’re made correctly. Anyone who wants to learn the potato recipe has to spend several holiday seasons making the potatoes alongside someone who already knows the recipe and correct balance of ingredients by heart. The learning process is like an initiation ritual for that side of the family. Almost everyone descended from that side knows how to make the potatoes. The informant says that she got her grandmother’s permission before giving away the recipe. “My grandma doesn’t think anyone would be able to get the flavor balance right anyway, even with the ingredients list,” she said. The ingredients are as follows:
Fresh and hot batch of mashed potatoes, made from scratch, sour cream, plain cream cheese, butter, heavy cream, salt, and white pepper. Her grandmother says it’s important that the potatoes be tangy, but not too much. “It’s a season to taste type of thing,” says the informant.
The informant and her grandmother have been making the potatoes together for several years. They only make them during Thanksgiving and Christmas when the members of their extended family are around to enjoy the potatoes.