The Pain of Scalloped Potatoes

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m too old to fix scalloped potatoes and here’s why.

I had been excited to prepare that special dish—and trust me it is special if for nothing more than the time it takes—for the eight people I was having for dinner last week. When I learned that one of my guests was lactose-intolerant, the idea of fixing the potatoes, without cheese and sour cream, became even more intriguing.

I do love a challenge, which is why I am continuing to try to find an agent or publisher for my new mystery/thriller Under the Sand, even though I’m not having much luck. But I digress.

I searched the Internet and found numerous recipes that called for fake cheese this and faux cheese that and sounded quite unpleasant. Real cheese can cover up a multitude of cooking sins. But the cardboard stuff that tries to pass for the real thing is a waste of money and an affront to one’s tastebuds.

How happy I was when I discovered a recipe that was super simple and relied heavily on good-old chicken stock, butter, and onions for flavor. My friend Katie often makes a “potato bake” that incorporates all that yumminess without so much as a hint of cheese. Game on, I decided.

The recipe called for twelve potatoes. I reasoned that if I could prepare them the day before and put them in cold water, I could save time and energy the day of the event. I started by peeling with a gadget and moved quickly to a small knife. When was the last time I performed this simple task? I must have been younger and filled with youthful energy.

Half way through the bag of potatoes, I had to sit down. My back and legs were hurting; my wrist was starting to ache. Damn. How hard can it be to peel a dozen potatoes? Evidently more difficult than I remembered. My man stood in for me on the final three.

The recipe called for thin slices. After I finished cutting them with my sharpest knife I had and nicking my fingertip in the process (the wound healed quickly), I put the potatoes in my largest bowl, covered them with water, and prayed that they wouldn’t turn black in the refrigerator overnight.

In theory, the make-ahead scalloped potatoes worked like a charm. All I had to do the next morning was make the sauce, cover the thin slices with the mixture, and stick the glass casserole pan in the fridge until I was ready to pop it in the oven. To be on the safe side, I removed the dish from the coolness for forty-five minutes so it could attain room temperature before sticking the potatoes in the oven for fifty minutes.

This was a new oven, and I had been warned by my neighbor that it wasn’t the hottest kid on the block. I went for an hour and fifteen minutes and could have used another half-an-hour of cooking time. Even better, I should have considered parboiling the potatoes.

All my guests dutifully ate them; everyone but me, that is. I couldn’t get passed the crunchiness and was too pissed to waste calories on the little buggers.

It took almost a week for my fingers and wrist to recover from the peeling and chopping. I was contemplating a visit to the doctor’s office when the pain finally subsided. I suppose you can get temporary carpal tunnel from preparing scalloped potatoes. What else could it have been?

I revisited this painful experience as I finally bit the bullet and sent the potatoes on their merry way down the garbage disposal this morning. At least they didn’t mold after sitting in the fridge for four days.

Lesson learned. When you come to my house for dinner just know that if I serve scalloped potatoes someone else will have made them.

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