Key’s Cupboard : A President And His Potatoes

Key's Cupboard

This week I wish to share with Dabbler readers a single fact. It is one that came to my notice some years ago and which has, ever since, exerted a curious spell over me. I read a lot, and I regret to say that much of what I read I forget. There are books, both fiction and non-fiction, read within the last twelvemonth, which I would be hard pressed to give a satisfactory account of. Mind like a sieve, as my father used to say. (He was also fond of the phrase “dim as a Toc H lamp”, but that’s another story.) Anyway, the point is that some things do stick in my head, immediately and irrevocably, for no apparent reason. And once I learned, from Nixon’s Shadow by David Greenberg, that one of Richard Milhous Nixon’s great pleasures in life was the mashing of potatoes, it was unforgettable.

Apparently, the ex-President used to mash potatoes to relieve his myriad stresses and strains. One day I must do further research on the matter, to discover the style of his potato mashing. Was he calm and methodical, or did he mash aggressively? Were his mashings always done as part of meal preparations, or did he just get some potatoes and mash them for the hell of it? These are neither deep nor important questions, but I find them fascinating.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

5 thoughts on “Key’s Cupboard : A President And His Potatoes

    ian russell
    October 1, 2010 at 10:00

    The thing about having a memory like a sieve is that not only does it imply you lose good information but you have no difficulty holding on to rubbish.
    Yes, did Tricky use a mallet or a fork? That’s what I’d like to know. Of course, a knob of best butter and a pinch of ground nutmeg goes without saying…

    October 1, 2010 at 10:09

    It’s politicians, ain’t it? Gladstone – ‘rescuing’ whores and chopping down trees. What a nutter.

    October 1, 2010 at 12:43

    There is something incredibly elevating about mashing potatoes, the dear little vegies become the recipients of all of that pent up aggression, if the mash is carried out on a bleak Friday evening, and when aren’t they, the weeks ration of personal insult, downward putting, rejection, abuse and other depressing events regularly thudding onto ones cranium in the new millennium, can most satisfactorily be expunged, without having to resort to murdering ones fellow comrades. If the mashing is preceded by a swift bout of potato peeling using one of those devilishly clever machines then the whole experience becomes other worldly.
    Favourite expression of the father’s wife ‘you’ll forget to attend you’re own funeral’ and why wouldn’t you.

    jonathan law
    October 1, 2010 at 12:55

    There’s something rather fascinating about the private, extracurricular pleasures of the powerful, isn’t there? I’m not sure why – something to do with human nature being always more complex and surprising than you think, I suppose. In the less interesting cases the hobbies seem of a piece with the public image – Clinton’s sax, Putin’s judo – and no doubt cultivated in part to make the hobbyist seem cool, interesting, an Ordinary Joe, whatever. But in other cases the hobbies are so unexpected or downright weird they make you think again. So I’ve now stored Nixon’s potato mashing in the same part of my brain as the knowledge that Berlusconi collects cacti and that Chirac is a devotee of sumo wrestling (he has gone on record as saying that he regrets not being able to make a career of the sport). Among the real monsters, Idi Amin played the accordion, Saddam wrote a couple of romantic novels, and Kim Jong Il is a loony cinephile with a huge thing for Elizabeth Taylor. Which reminds me of that Hungarian PM, Ferenc Gyurcsany, and his obsession with Hugh Grant (he liked to be filmed acting out his favourite scenes, with himself in the role of the floppy-haired one). And the Japanese – do you remember that very odd-looking PM of theirs, Junichiro Koizumi, who released a CD of himself singing Elvis? His successors included Taro Aso, a self-confessed anime nerd, and the current man, Naoto Kan, who invented a machine for calculating the score in Mah Jong.

    Madagascar has a Minister for Hobbies. That’s either a very good thing or a very bad thing and I can’t decide which.

    October 1, 2010 at 16:53

    Jonathan – I actually read that hobby as “Clinton’s sex”…

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