Mashed potatoes

At the table, face to face with the mashed potato mound, you feel calm. The butter/buttermilk/buttered potato cycle, re-enacted right on your plate, strikes you as profoundly delicious. (Photo by Bill Hogan)

The sages claim: What goes around, comes around. And you find this observation true.

For instance: You pull the last recycling bag from the box, then slide the empty box into the bag. You stand by the sturdy blue bin, awestruck by the circle of life.

You remain captivated by the garden, where the seed grows into tomato, the tomato devolves into compost, the compost nourishes the new tomato. Considering the neglect you apply to the vegetable patch, you find this cycle comforting.

At times you wonder about the outer reaches of centrifugal force. You consider the dog scrabbling in a tight circle, in pursuit of his fleeting tail.

What if he managed to catch it and down it? Would he disappear? You gaze at the frantic ball of fur and claws, thrilled by the possibility.

Back in the kitchen, you spin your own tight circle, churning cream into butter. Which produces buttermilk. Essential to the mashed potato. Which requires butter. Eerie.

At the table, face to face with the mashed potato mound, you feel eerily calm. The butter/buttermilk/buttered potato cycle, re-enacted right on your plate, strikes you as profound. Or at least profoundly delicious.

The sages must have a word for this compact pleasure. Perhaps it's karma.

Endless mashed potatoes

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Servings: 12

Ingredients:
1 pint whipping cream
Fine sea salt
12 Russet potatoes, peeled, quartered

Churn:
Pour cream into a butter churn, a quart-size glass jar fitted with a clean marble or a large mixing bowl. Churn (or shake or stir) as cream thickens, clumps and turns to butter, 20 minutes. This is an excellent job to hand to a child or anyone else underfoot in the kitchen.

Knead:
Lift out butter and run under cool water, kneading gently, to release any trapped buttermilk. Heap into a bowl. Mash in 1 pinch (about 1/16 teaspoon) salt. Cover and set aside. Strain buttermilk into a large serving bowl. Set the bowl near the stovetop to warm.

Boil:
Settle potatoes in a large pot. Fill with cold water to cover by 1 inch. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon salt. Heat to a boil, lower to simmer and cook until fork-tender, 15 minutes. Drain. Return potatoes to pot and pot to stove. Shake gently over medium heat until potatoes look dry, 1 minute.

Fluff:
Set a potato ricer over the bowl of buttermilk. Run potatoes through ricer into bowl. Fluff with a fork. Immediately serve big scoops topped with fresh butter.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor. Contact her at leahreskin@aol.com