Colcannon Croquettes

IMG_2944Happy St. Patrick’s day. As far as I know, I’m not Irish in any way, so I probably have no right to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of green-beer-drinking Americans, so why should I let it stop me? Actually I don’t have any Ceilidhs planned, but I did spend some time Reading Yeats’ poems today, in keeping with the situation. I’d never noticed how preoccupied Yeats is with growing older, but now that I’ve started to become more preoccupied with the subject myself, it seems that his poems are suffused with memories and regrets of youth, and fear of growing old and of bodily decay. Many of them are filled with sadness and disappointment, and though they’re beautiful, they’re not easy to read. I love this one, though. I love the idea of thinking in a marrow bone.

A Prayer for Old Age

God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;

From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song’s sake a fool?

I pray—for word is out
And prayer comes round again—
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.

Colcannon is, I’m told “An Irish dish of cabbage and potatoes boiled and pounded.” I made this with kale, rather than cabbage, but they’re both brassicae, so I think that’s okay. Basically this is mashed potatoes with kale, cheese, eggs and herbs mixed in, and then baked in olive oil till they’re crispy outside and soft inside. You can use any herbs you like (or no herbs at all). I used tarragon, rosemary and basil, because I like them and that’s what I had. I made an olive hazelnut sauce to eat these with, but the boys actually at them with catsup!

Here’s The Sickbed of Cuchlainn by the Pogues.
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Mashed potato and white bean croquettes with sage and rosemary

Potato and white bean croquettes with sage and rosemary

Potato and white bean croquettes with sage and rosemary

People at work have been giving me grief about my handwriting. Sometimes they’re joking, sometimes they’re exasperated and angry, but it’s always the same cry, “You have to write more neatly.” The odd thing is that in my 44 years, most of which I’ve spent a lot of time writing, nobody has ever said a negative word about my handwriting. It’s not pretty, I’m no calligrapher, but it’s always been legible. I get my point across. I’m tempted to say, “Don’t worry, my seven-year-old has a hard time reading cursive, too. You’ll get it eventually.” But I don’t. The other odd thing is that it’s surprisingly hurtful to be teased about your handwriting. It feels bad to be scolded. It feels bad for about a minute, because this is just my extremely part-time job, and I don’t really care enough to care, and when you work in a restaurant if you can’t weather some criticism barked at you by stressed-out cooks you won’t last very long. The other day we were trying to sort through the mess of papers in Malcolm’s backpack, and most of them said, “Write more neatly!!” Well! I had such a surge of sympathy for my Malcolm! He hears it all the time. The teachers are only doing their job, and I’m sure they’re kinder than my co-workers (they’d better be!!). But I’m sure it’s not just the handwriting, it’s everything. I’m sure he’s constantly told to sit still, focus, be organized, pay attention. And that’s just the school part, just the educational side. He’s got a million other things to figure out, too. The other day he needed his tiger hat. With classic Malcolmish single-mindedness and urgency, he wouldn’t even eat breakfast until he found it. He was sure all the other kids would be wearing their animal hats (last year his class was like a strange sort of zoo.) Well, they weren’t. It’s just Malcolm and his tiger hat. But he didn’t care, he’s still happy to wear it, as cool as ever a kid could be. Yesterday Malcolm was worried about a grade he got on a math test. So worried that he wouldn’t look at me or talk to me. He wouldn’t lift his head, and I found myself talking to the blankly staring, slightly surprised button eyes on the tiger’s hat, pushed back to the top of Malcolm’s head. It’s overwhelming! There’s so much for Malcolm to be responsible for, to keep track of, to figure out! He’s so bright and sweet and smart and practical, but it seems like so much. We can’t do it for him, we can’t even be there with him most of the time while he’s holding all the pieces together. It’s just so strange to be a parent, sometimes. It’s my job to show Malcolm that all of this is important: that grades are important, and neatness, and showing your work,and points, there are always points to keep track of, to be lost and never regained. It’s my job to make this matter to Malcolm, when part of me wants to shout, “Who cares what your handwriting looks like if the words you write with it are as imaginative and clever and funny as you are? Who cares if your spelling is erratic as long as your stories are so brilliant and creative? And who cares about math at all?!” But of course I would never say that, because I do care, and I know that he should, too. I know he can manage all of this, I know he can. He’s a strong swimmer, I know he can carry himself over this sea of worries and responsibilities. His mind is a vivid, teeming, beautiful place, and I know his head hurts sometimes with trying to see his way through clearly, trying to rein it all in, and trying to get it all out–trying to organize all this brilliance and show his work, and write more neatly so other people can share it, too. I understand that sometimes a person might need to lie on the floor and hide behind his tiger hat before he wades in again, I might try it myself sometime.

I think there’s nothing more comforting than mashed potatoes! They smell like a holiday while they’re cooking, and they’re so pleasing and soft and gently flavorful. I had some left over, and I wanted to make something that accentuated their comfortingness, so I made these little croquettes. I kept them very simple, but they’re not bland. It’s just mashed potatoes mixed with smushed white beans, eggs, white sharp cheddar, and rosemary and sage. Quick and easy. I made a red sauce to go with them, with some balsamic and garlic and shallots, so it’s got stronger sharper flavors which were nice against the simplicity of the croquettes.

Here’s James Brown with Mashed Potato
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