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La Petite Mashed Potato

First, my apologies to my readers. I have been holed up at home with our youngest in a week of intensive therapy and am still digging out, hence my absence from my writer’s desk. Hopefully, when I am fully back on track I can share about our progress. Now on to this week’s post, albeit a few days late.

I am not much into French cuisine but I cannot resist the fare served at our "neighborhood" French restaurant La Petite Mashed Potato. The menu is not encumbered with the usual unpronounceable delicacies; fluffy mashed potatoes are all it serves. Towering over the edges of bowls and dishes, their light and creamy whiteness leave you feeling hungry for more rather than over-stuffed. This is no surprise given that these mashed potatoes are concocted entirely out of dish soap, water and thin air.

Even better, there are no pretentious waiters; the lone server and chef are one and the same so service is prompt and direct. Wisk in one hand, ladle in the other, she alternately whips and scoops, utilizing every plastic bowl within arm’s length of her workspace.

The culinary genius behind this operation is my youngest, a child prodigy in the fake-food arena who began whipping up her signature dish at the tender age of four.

Before her career took off though, she was affectionately known as “Emma the dilemma”, a name she rightfully came by given her I-can’t-sit-still-days and my-eyes-won’t-sleep-nights. Until I, her sleep-deprived mother, desperate for just one moment of calm; handed her an apron, a stool; a sink filled with warm, soapy water; and a whisk. From these humble beginnings before a big soapstone sink in the tiniest of Singaporean kitchens to her current digs in an American-workhorse of a kitchen, she built a faux-food empire.

But really, I cannot take the credit for the seeds of this empire; these began way before she was even a glimmer in our eye, with the likes of Judy Stump, preschool teacher extraordinaire. Judy, a woman filled with years of child development wisdom, shared with me the germ of the recipe when my oldest was in her class at Co-op. “Having trouble making dinner and keeping the kids occupied? Fill a large bowl with warm soapy water and hand them a whisk.”

Many years, and bowls of soapy water later, Sabnum, a wise-beyond-her-years occupational therapist, taught me how to help regulate our youngest’s overactive sensory system (a hallmark of the now-often diagnosed Sensory Processing Disorder*). She specifically indicated the importance of “tactile” work to realign a disconnected sensory system.  Shaving cream spread on a tray. Sinks filled with warm water. Bathtubs (with a dose of Epsom salts) and toys. Swimming pools. All had the calming properties of water play.

So here we stand, many soothing years later, ladle in hand, arms immersed in soapy water, bowls of towering mashed potatoes - a “calmer, gentler” household. Perhaps our nation, our politicians in Washington and Frankfort, even you could use a bowl? If so, belly up to the sink we say!

*Also known as Sensory Integration Disorder. For more information on this condition see www.sinenetwork.org , www.sensory-processing-disorder.com , or www.spdfoundation.net or read Kranowitz’s The Out of Sync Child.

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