WHB #118 : Feeding the Beast


This man I live with, I sometimes look at him and wonder. He has eyes like two blue cat’s eye marbles. His legs are obscured by fine yellow grass and on his face, a landscape fit to scour the dirt off the toughest pot.

This man travelled a great distance, from a home that was green and comforting, to live here with me on this crazy warm and dusty land. In the heat, the leafblowers scream and the flies, moths and crickets dance. Sweaty palms slap with irritation at their conversations against his ear, as he sleeps. When he can, he sleeps with great determination – one hand tucked between face and pillow like a sandwich; one lumbering shoulder rising and falling rhythmically. Every morning, I get the automated reply before I step out the door. It’s whrr *click* goodbyeloveyou – seeyoulater – haveaniceday *click* click* and then the body turns away from me, taking the morning brain with it, signalling that our meagre conversation has been terminated.

In his waking hours, he pushes a pen, presses a key, answers the phone, nibbles biscuits and drinks coffee. Occasionally, armed with only his wits, this man taxis forth to enter mountaineous buildings with security fit for castles, to battle computational demons. In the evening, he returns, recalling the promise of food.

Later he drifts off again into sleep and I wonder where he goes; what battles he fights, that are not under the sun of this Earth. What takes 10-12 hours of firm, enduring slumber (no peeking allowed) in the dark hours (maybe that’s why they’re called knights, but spare me the shining armour – this one barely wears a tie). Sometimes a little bubble of speech breaks through from the other world. Once, he told me that Big Bird was like an ostrich. I laughed out so loud, it woke him.

As he sleeps, I gaze at him and wonder. Then I start to plan ahead the meal I shall make for him when he returns again to my world. The other day, I made him this:

Parsley potato cakes :
(Ah, parsley, as the voiceover from Iron Chef might say. There are two major kinds of parsley; flat-leaf and curly. The ones in the know, use flat-leaf or Italian parsley for it’s stronger flavour. If our house was falling down and I only had time to save one potted herb, flat-leaf parsley would be it. This recipe is from The Art of Handmade Bread, by Dan Lepard)

1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (250g) mashed cooked potato
1 medium egg
6 tbsp (100g) milk at 68’F (20’C)
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
dripping or oil

In a large bowl, combine the flour with the soda and salt. Break the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour mixture until no lumps remain. In another bowl, beat the mashed potato with the egg, then beat in the milk and parsley. Pour this in with the dry ingredients and stir until you have an evenly combined, soft and sticky dough.

Take a large skillet, ideally one with a close-fitting lid. Melt 1 tbsp of dripping (or sunflower oil) in the pan, then swirl the pan to coat the base evenly. Place this over a heat-diffusing plate on a low heat, and scrape the dough into the pan. Quickly pat the surface smooth with a spatula, then allow to cook over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, preferably with a lid on. As you need to cook the flour out, it is vital to keep the heat low and extend the cooking time. Aim for a crisp, slightly brown base to the cake after about 5 minutes.

Liberally oil a large dinner plate. Place this over the top of the skillet then, using a thick cloth, flip the pan over so that the cake falls down onto the plate. Slide the upturned cake back into the pan, return to the heat, and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.

To serve, flip the cake out onto the oiled plate and cut into wedges, or simply put crisp bacon, broiled mushrooms, and tomatoes on the top and serve it straight out of the pan – but that might be too piggy!

[Note: This potato cake is particularly delicious with fried kippers and Sauce Gribiche, and is my contribution to WHB #118. For more herbaceous recipes, visit Claudia at Fool for Food for this week’s WHB roundup.]



  1. Helen said,

    February 3, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

    what a lovely affectionate tribute 🙂 and the potato cake sounds delicious!

  2. Kalyn said,

    February 5, 2008 @ 11:44 am

    You’re such a good writer. Love the introduction to the post. Does he read your blog? The potato cake sounds delicious and parsley and potatoes are just meant to go together.

  3. Y said,

    February 5, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

    Helen: Thanks 🙂 When is potato-anything ever not delicious!

    Kalyn: Does anyone read my blog? 😀 Actually, he does, sometimes. He got really cross with me once, about something I wrote concerning him. This one is more placatory, hopefully.

  4. B the marble-eyed beast said,

    February 6, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

    Of course, I’m an avid reader!

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