I thought books came from factories…

Okay, technically books do come from factories but what I mean is that when I was a little kid I never gave any thought to where books come from. I assumed vegetables came from a canning plant: It actually kind of disgusted me to learn that they grew in the dirt.

Where I’m going with this is that learning how things are made can be revelatory, even for the most mundane or banal things. I used to love roast beef, and my wife made the best roast beef I had ever encountered. It got her a lot of praise, which she enjoyed as who wouldn’t, and she always acted as if the secret to great roast beef was this literal secret, to be jealously guarded. One time shortly after becoming single again, in a fit of depression I decided to learn how to cook good roast beef and it turned out to be the simplest dish there is: My ex-wife was simply the only person in my past who had bothered to read a cookbook.

What got me to thinking about this was today’s breakfast…


The standard restaurant breakfast, eggs/toast/potatoes/meat, always perplexed me because I didn’t know how they got the potatoes to taste like that. All restaurant breakfast potatoes taste exactly the same no matter the region or restaurant, and I didn’t know how they did it. I assumed it was simple because it’s always the same, and I assumed it was cheap because it’s always plentiful: I mean they might scrimp on the meat but they’ll pile your plate with potatoes. When I finally decided to give it some thought it turned out to be – simple and cheap. The only real trick, if we must call it that, is that you don’t use baking potatoes, which is all I ever used to buy.

Living in the boonies has forced me to my own devices in a lot of little ways, and incidentally taught me that many big trade secrets aren’t really secrets at all: just previously unknown simple things.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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8 Responses to I thought books came from factories…

  1. tsgtjoe says:

    What kind of potatoes are good for frying and hash browns

  2. Stuart says:

    tsgtjoe,

    The red ones. They have firmer flesh and hold together better. They are the ones to use for soup for the same reason.

  3. Judy says:

    I use Yukon Golds or Pontiac Reds. Anything other than a Russet/baking potato. Be interesting to see what others use.

  4. Mike says:

    The “secret” to frying up potatoes, regular or baking, is to cut them up and then parboil* them. This gets rid of the starch and when you fry them, the potatoes cook thoroughly so the inside is cooked and the outside isn’t burned.

    Another trick when you are cooking breakfast with eggs. When you’re frying eggs and want them sunny side up, get a pan cover and a squirt bottle. Spray some water onto the inside of the fry pan near the eggs, then cover the pan for a moment. The steam will cook the top of the egg but not enough to fully cook the yoke. This will save you trying to turn over the eggs and breaking the yokes.

    * Parboiling (or leaching) is the partial or semi boiling of food as the first step in cooking.

  5. The Engineer says:

    Potato salad is much better with red potatoes as well.

  6. Tennessee Budd says:

    If y’all want tasty potatoes, steam them. I turned my girlfriend onto steaming taters, and after one taste she swore she’d never boil another potato.

  7. Cliff says:

    “ many big trade secrets aren’t really secrets at all: just previously unknown simple things.”
    The only real secret in life summed up in a simple sentence.

  8. paulb says:

    If someone put it in a book it is only secret to those who cannot read.

To the stake with the heretic!