Boiled potatoes


I grew up on boiled potatoes
never rice
spaghetti was a feast.
Boiled potatoes that I peeled
carefully to get rid of soil
before I let them sail across my gravy lakes
when plates seemed infinite,
to meet with meatballs
and merge with lingonberry jam.
Like blood with mud.

“Eat up your food, think of them that starve”

I mash potatoes with my fork
and draw patterns making art of sorts
a masterpiece per se,
creations pale as corpses.
sculptures, skulls and bones.

“I’m a pirate, blood and mud”

My fork’s my sword, battling meatballs
bleeding gravy brussel sprouts
and boiled potatoes.

“Eat your food”

Lumps of boiled potatoes filled my throat.
Gravy tears and misery.
I grew up despite the boiled potatoes.

The Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh.

The Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh.


Today Kanzensakura has the prompt for dVerse Poetics, and it’s about food. Food as metaphor or memory. When I grew up in Sweden we where still very much a potato eating people, and not only that, we just had boiled potatoes with everything. I think I liked it better than I describe here (this would be more my sister). But rice would have been a feast.

June 16, 2015

30 responses to “Boiled potatoes

  1. This is great, Bjorn! We had a lot of potatoes too–mostly mashed. I prefer rice. And spaghetti was a frequent dinner, so I don’t make it as much nowadays–though you’ve got me thinking, it might just taste good!

  2. We potatoes all kinds of ways and lots of rice. Not always spaghetti but other noodles. My husband was raised on potatoes and thinks they have to be served at every meal. I finally have him eating rice. And yes, we do grow up in spite of the potatoes or cabbage or rice…or whatever was put in front of us to eat…I like the little boy being a pirate with his “blood and mud”/ I got the “starving people in China” lecture until one day I piped up and told them to mail mine to them. Oh well! Oh how food shapes our memories.

  3. My favorite was mashed potatoes with spinach. I loved mashing them together – guess I made mashed spinatoes or or potinach. And at the Horn & Hardart i would have mac-n-cheese on the side. I think except for my liking spinach, i would mostly just eat starch. I loved the images created by your words, and I could picture the child playing with his food. I always asked and wondered how my eating could possibly help the children who were starving…(parents have no logic.)

  4. How Swedish your poem is! I think Sweden is the place where I have eaten the most potatoes, not to mention potato salad. I think the way they are eaten now is much more creative than a few decades ago though. I am glad that a bit further down we enjoyed a wider variety of vegetables. As an inside, I remember seing that painting in Amsterdam and being surprised at van Gogh using such dark and dreary colors.

  5. Well, I am reminded of having Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam at a ‘Swedish restaurant’ in Wisconsin last summer…really delicious. but I would much rather pass on boiled potatoes (smiles) and especially gravy. It seems you weren’t a fan of boiled potatoes either.

  6. I really like starch in my food… Something comforting about it. We have a variety of potato preps here in India, the most humble vegetable. You added some intense character to it.

  7. Nice. You tell a story through your potatoes. I grew up on them, field greens and such. There was an ‘old field’ we would go to, and dig and pick. Ha. You were an imaginative kid too, and I think that got you through. Though I got chided plenty of times for playing with my food. My brother tried to smother his potatoes in pepper once thinking mom would not make him eat them. Seeing him in tears as he took each bite, is a vivid memory in my mind. Learned my lesson, luckily through him.

  8. oh i love boiled potatoes… but i can think of some things that i really hated as a kid and it was so tough when i had to eat them…ugh

  9. I grew up on sweet potatoes, the native kind and yes spaghetti would be a feast ~ I admire the imaginative play on food, with pirate, blood and mud (just like my brothers before) ~ Enjoyed this one Bjorn ~

  10. what fun you had with your boiled potatoes metaphor & memory. i’m sure that this piece will resonate with most of us. I am a potato lover, boiled, fried, or baked, & my mother’s potato salad was to die for. It was the baked green peppers stuffed with Spanish rice that drove me to fits.
    I like your lines /My fork’s my sword, battling meatballs/bleeding gravy brussel sprouts/and boiled potatoes/.

  11. Ah, yes, those ubiquitous boiled potatoes – many a school dinner or family meal ruined because of it! It’s more of a North European thing, but there wasn’t much else to eat as a side dish in winter in Romania (no fancy imports back then), so we roasted, fried, boiled potatoes (but also rice).
    The blood and mud metaphor is rather striking and reminds one of the Viking past – and I particularly like the turn in the final stanza. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

  12. Your potatoes speak to me of an underlying metaphor of dreams that are not fulfilled along the way. “I grew up despite the boiled potatoes” is something painful, because in the end, we grow up with the ordinary, shedding away the dreams of something fancy. Or maybe, I am just reading too much within your lines.
    Great imagery; particularly the pirate bit and the fork as sword is fascinating. I really enjoyed reading it. 🙂

  13. My fork’s my sword, battling meatballs
    bleeding gravy brussel sprouts
    and boiled potatoes.

    Loved these lines..! 😀 there is such a cool vibe flowing through this poem 😀

  14. Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.
    ~Louise Fresco

    You and Me have a lot in common with eating potatoes.
    I like eating with with ketchup. yummy!

    I am loving your taste of potato poem. 🙂

  15. OMG.. potatoes.. the most boring staple of life of all..
    when served plain of course.. but oh goodness.. the creamy
    sour and buttery bacon delights and so much more
    that can be added in on vanilla
    potatoes
    of
    life..:)

  16. we had potatoes for every meal. I don’t eat them so much now.

    I really liked this one, it felt light you opened to us and shared.

  17. Soulful. I think children form deep memories connected with food, for good and ill as Proust reminded us with his madeleine moment.

    I love potatoes any way at all. I mash them with sour cream instead of butter and milk.

  18. Oh this one is great…it talks about many things …memories….they way people live….how we imagine and visualize even small things as kids….and this is straight from heart I can feel….

  19. You turned potatoes into philosphy…imagine the families who lived that way, having to leave their own country because of famine…at least there are a multitude of ways to cook them using whatever else one can find.

  20. We had potatoes a lot growing up, too, though after boiling them my mom usually mashed them with milk and butter. I serve a lot of potatoes as well, though my preferred cooking method is diced and in a foil packet on the Traeger pellet stove. (Just ate some leftover ones with my lunch!) I like the playfulness of this poem, the memories of your imagination as a child interspersed with the food. Peace, Linda

  21. My first experience of grinding poverty was seeing that painting by Van Gogh in a book when I was very young. It has always stayed with me. Thus the power of art.

  22. Perfect description of a kid picking at a meal he doesn’t like. I could see my own kids in this poem (although not necessarily with potatoes)

  23. This brought a smile. I grew up on boiled potatoes. They were such a staple at the dinner table, that when I got home from school each day, I began pealing potatoes to boil. It was a “given” in my everyday younger years. Though, I almost never eat those bland “lumps” of spuds anymore. Ha.

  24. Pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread. In the summer, Blackeyed peas and fried okra. All a matter of location on the earth.

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