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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Grown-Up Food

October 21, 2014

A friend recently asked if I thought that there are any foods we outgrow. Aside from the obvious answer, Gerber baby food, I had to think on it.

I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I was four-years old. I don’t eat as many these days, but I still love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The famed New Orleans restaurateur, Ella Brennan, once said, “You know why kids like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Because peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are good.” I agree.

I probably don’t eat as much sugar as I did when I was a kid. They used to sell those large plastic straws filled with grape-flavored powder (read: purple food coloring, artificial flavoring, sugar) and I ate those when I went to the park. I ate a lot of sno-cones (read: purple food coloring, artificial flavoring, ice), too. I don’t eat either of those things today. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve outgrown them, or that I just don’t like to mainline sugar.

I would still rather lick the brownie-batter bowl than eat the finished product. Once brownies go from the bowl to the pan, I am done with them.

My palate has become more refined with age. It has matured but it hasn’t grown up. I ate a lot of instant oatmeal when I was a kid. Today I eat regular, slow-cooking whole oats. Though not because they are slower burning carbohydrates with more fiber, they just tastes better.

As a kid I ate steaks cooked rare. These days I order steaks cooked medium-rare plus (just a little more done than medium rare, but nowhere near medium). I still like to eat donuts, I just don’t feel very good after I do.

There are some foods that I never grow tired of— the aforementioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be near the top of that list. My mother offered to prepare a birthday meal for me recently. “What would you like me to cook?” she asked. Though she didn’t have to ask. The answer has been the same for five decades.

“Stuffed peppers.” I love my mother’s stuffed peppers. They remind me of growing up in my old house and having supper with my mother and brother. They also taste good.

“Do you want mashed potatoes and English peas?” Again, one would think that after 53 years some answers are obvious. I still love eating a large mound of mashed potatoes with English peas placed into an indentation in the potatoes.

I remember my grandmother once telling me that my dad liked to eat potatoes and peas that way. That was good enough for me. I tried it, and have been eating them that way ever since. Though I don’t eat a lot of English peas these days. I am the only one in my family who likes them. We are all mashed potato eaters, but I fly solo in the small, round, green, mushy vegetable department.

A few years ago, after returning from a long trip overseas, my kids had been living through a six-month ban of American fast food. Their first meal was filled with hamburgers and French fries. I had to wait a day or two to eat fried chicken with mashed potatoes and English peas.

When it comes to food, I could be the Peter Pan of the culinary world. I might never grow up. Come to think of it, Peter Pan makes a pretty mean peanut butter, too.



Robert’s Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs                       Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

2 Tbl.                     Salt

1 gallon                 Water

1 /2 cup                Butter, cold, cut into small pats (1 stick)

6 ounces               Cream cheese, softened

1 cup                       Half and half

2 oz                         Sour Cream

1 1 /2 tsp.             Salt

1 tsp                        Black pepper

In a large saucepot add potatoes to salted water. Cook at a low simmer (do not boil) to avoid potatoes breaking apart. When the potatoes are tender, carefully drain. Return potatoes to the dry pot and place over low heat for one to two minutes to remove all excess moisture.

Place potatoes a mixing bowl. Using a hand-held potato masher, mash the potatoes. Add cold butter— one piece at a time— as you begin to mash. Mix cream cheese, half and half, and sour cream in a microwave safe container and heat in the microwave until hot. Remove from microwave, blend together, and slowly add to hot potatoes. Add salt and pepper. Potatoes may be covered tightly and held in warm place for one hour before serving.

Yield: 10 servings

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