As you probably have realized from reading my blog, my mind works in a way where almost everything is connected to food. Which means when I’m reading (for pleasure or for study), I constantly relate what I’m reading to food in some way. Whether it’s conjuring up an image of a character’s favorite meal, or coming up with a recipe that reflects a text, I always find a way to daydream about eating while I’m reading. This explains why I stuck parsley on top of mashed red-potatoes because I thought it would look like trees on top of a mountain.
I did this because I’ve been reading a book that my grandma recommended called The Education of Little Tree. It is such a good book, and different from what I’ve been reading lately! It’s a book about a boy named Little Tree who lives with his ‘Granma’ and ‘Granpa’ and is raised with the traditional Cherokee values that they instill in him. He is able to roam free through the woods, learns how to harvest properly from the earth, and receive a different education than traditional schooling. While most children his age are enrolled in traditional school, Little Tree observes his grandparents and soaks up their beliefs, values, and experience. His Granma reads to him from Shakespeare plays, he is instructed to learn 5 words per week from a dictionary and use them in conversation, and his Granpa instructs him in his whiskey trade that supports the family. At an extremely young age, Little Tree possesses not only textbook-type knowledge, but an ongoing learning relationship with other people and the earth. His curiosity in regards to how he can better engage in a relationship with the world around him is astounding; he constantly notes the actions of creatures around him – the wiliness of a fox, the tenderness of a mourning dove, and the passiveness of fish relaxing in deep holes in the creek bed. He knows when to harvest plants and maintains a deep respect for mother earth when taking anything to eat for himself. And perhaps the most beautiful aspect of his ‘education’ comes from the wisdom imparted from his grandparents, both vocally and through actions. A quote from this book that really hit me is this:
“Granma said everybody has two minds. One of the minds has to do with the necessaries for body living. You had to use it to figure out how to get shelter and eating and such like for the body. But she said we had another mind that had nothing atall to do with such. She said it was the spirit mind.
Granma said that when your body died, the body-living mind died with it, and if that’s the way you had thought all your life there you was, stuck with a hickor’nut spirit, as the spirit mind was all that lived when everything else died. Then, Granma said, when you was born back – as you was bound to be – then, there you was, born with a hickor’nut spirit mind that had practical no understanding of anything.
Then it might shrink up to the size of a pea and could disappear. If the body-living mind took over total. In such case, you lost your spirit complete.
That’s how you become dead people. Granma said you could easy spot dead people. She said dead people when they looked at a woman saw nothing but dirty; when they looked at other people they saw nothing but bad; when they looked at a tree they saw nothing but lumber and profit; never beauty. Granma said they was dead people walking around.” [59-60]
I think that this quote has a lot to do with the major themes of the book which are living in harmony with yourself, others, and nature. Every aspect of the characters’ actions contain consideration for others. The connections to nature and a deep appreciation for other humans throughout the story are especially inspiring and lead to reflection. I really enjoyed reading the book! And I also enjoyed both making and eating these parsley-topped mashed potatoes!
As I cooked, I thought about The Education of Little Tree and was glad I had fresh parsley to sprinkle on top since in the book, Little Tree explains that “everything growing wild is a hundred times stronger than tame things…and just a handful would carry more flavor” . Although I didn’t just stumble across a parsley plant in the wilderness, I took more time than I usually would to appreciate the freshness of the herb. The flavor of fresh herbs are always so much more potent than the dried and bottled type.
These potatoes are packed with parsley and are a lovely side to light-fish dishes, hearty summer greens, or tofu hot-off-the-grill. They are flavorful, healthy, and if you plate them the right way, they kiiiiiiinnndd of look like potato mountains with parsley trees growing off the sides. Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch, but hey, I tried my best.
Potatoes ‘n Parsley
Ingredients (serves 4)
12 red potatoes
2 tablespoons butter (or earth balance)
1/2-1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (plus a bunch more for garnishing at the table!)
1. Put potatoes (with skins still on) in a large pot. Add water to the pot until the water sits about two inches over the potatoes. Set the pot on the stove top and crank the heat up to medium-high or high.
2. Boil the potatoes for about 30-40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender enough to break with a fork.
3. Pour the potatoes into a strainer and dispose of the water. When the potatoes have drained, put them back into the large pot that they were boiled in.
4. Add about 1/2 cup of broth to the potatoes and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Leave the skins on through the entire process- they add nutrients to the dish and a great chunky texture! Continue to add broth as needed, until the potatoes are well mashed and smooth in consistency. Add in butter and stir well. Add parsley and chop more to set out on the table for garnishing. Also, add salt and pepper to taste!
5. Take a little time to thank the earth for the potatoes ‘n parsley, share some food with family and friends, and then dig in!