Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Several days ago Allie came into my office eating a chocolate chip cookie and asked, “Papa, what’s your favorite thing to do in the whole world? I told Ben it was reading a good book. He said it was playing the drums.”

I was relaxing in my old recliner halfway through a book about geology I knew would bore most people to death, but I found it interesting. I set it down, smiled at her and answered, “Talking to my grandkids and listening to their stories.”

She shook her head and replied, “I know you’re just saying that to tease me.” She picked up my book, checked the cover and made a face. “Boring! Who cares about old rocks?”

“When are you going to write a story for me?” I asked.

“What kind of story?”

“Oh, maybe something about school, but it could be about anything.”

“Soon if I think of something.” She plopped down in my desk chair, swiveled around a couple times, stopped and asked, “Did you really make a record when you were young?”

“Yeah, but it didn’t sell more than a few copies.”

At that moment my computer started showing the photos of my grandkids I use for screensavers. Allie watched the photos scrolling by.

“Papa, you need new photos. We aren’t babies anymore.”

“You’re right. I should update the folder.”

“What is your favorite food?” She finished her cookie, pointed at me and said, “And don’t tell me it’s rutabaga sticks. I want a straight answer. If you were stranded on an island and only had one thing to eat what would you choose?”

“Mashed potatoes and gravy,” I answered quickly.

“Not ice cream?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“Okay, I would choose ice cream, but it’s your decision. What else would you want with the mashed potatoes?”

“Your grandmother makes the best meatloaf I’ve ever had. I could eat that every day if she made it.”

Allie spun around again. “I don’t like gravy, but I like mashed potatoes.”

“I know you like ice cream, but does chocolate syrup on the top make it better?”

“Of course! I would also add lots of the whipping cream that comes in a can. I would add the whole thing if no one was watching.”

“That’s kind of how I feel about gravy. Mashed potatoes are good all by themselves, but good gravy makes the mashed potatoes even better.”

“You can’t eat mashed potatoes for breakfast. What would you do?”

“Actually, my mother used to take leftover mashed potatoes, shape them into pancakes and fry them when I was your age.”

She made a face. “Did you put pancake syrup on them?”

I thought about it for a time. “I don’t remember, but I doubt if we could afford pancake syrup. We might have added butter.” I shrugged. “It was a long time ago.”

“Okay. I will work on a story for you, but right now I’m going to borrow Me-maw’s phone and play games.”

She jumped out of the chair and scampered away.

I picked up my book, opened it with the intention of finishing one more chapter, but I snapped it shut. I thought about food instead of old rocks. I closed my eyes and allowed my mind to return to my childhood when we didn’t have microwaves, frozen food and all the processed junk we eat today. I thought about Sunday dinners at Grandma’s house, and how good her fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy tasted.

Fried chicken goes really good with mashed potatoes and gravy, but Sheila’s homemade meatloaf is pretty tasty. I rolled my tongue over my teeth and noticed the empty spaces. Until I get a few new teeth, I guess I’d choose the meatloaf. It’s much easier for me to eat. Meatloaf, real mashed potatoes and gravy. Just thinking about them makes me hungry.

I got up, walked to the living room where Sheila was watching one of her political podcasts and Allie was playing a game on the phone.

Sheila looked up at me. “Are you getting hungry? Do you have any requests for dinner?”

I smiled, nodded, looked at Allie and said, “Do we have any rutabaga sticks?”

Allie groaned and stuck out her tongue.

“No,” Sheila answered with a laugh. “But I do have some potatoes.”

“Any chance of making some meatloaf and gravy to go along with the potatoes?”

“Okay, but it will cost you,” she answered with a devilish grin.

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