warm smashed potato salad

These potatoes remind me of my heart these days, except the damage done was deliberate and enhances the flavor. The potatoes, that is.

Today I had a moment of reckoning. It occurred to me that I am suffering from a broken heart, and I need to learn a new way to live. Figure out a way to exist without the demons constantly pulling me back into my childhood skin. Having my own daughters now, watching the love they shower upon their daddy and seeing it reciprocated is too much to bear. Somewhere deep in my subconscious it sets off sadness and feelings of loss.

Just typing the words feels shameful. These are my girls. I’m supposed to want a better life for them.

I do want a better life for them.

The problem is it’s a reminder of the deck I was dealt. The one I didn’t ask for but was unavoidable having been born into a relationship destined for years of misery. No matter how perfect I try to make this new family of mine, I can never erase the memories of the one I escaped.

The emptying of bottles of booze while he was in a drunken slumber. The numerous runaways by an older sister looking for her own way out. Too broken herself to this day to be the sister I long for and the aunt my daughters deserve. A lot of my journey now is truly accepting the past is just that—the past. It cannot be undone, and sometimes needs to be treated like a badly infected limb.

An amputation of sorts is in order, of the memories, not the heart—that I am not willing to give up on yet. The way my heart skipped a beat on my last date night with the Mr. tells me there is much more love to give, and receive.

For the moment the memories are tucked in the mental attic, until I can figure out how to purge them for good. And when it really becomes too much to bear, smashing the hell out of potatoes to make a simple salad helps too.


warm smashed potato salad

serves 4

12 ounces new potatoes

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic, sliced in half

Juice of 1 meyer lemon

Splash of red wine vinegar

Fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Add potatoes to a cast-iron skillet and toss with a drizzle of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender enough to pierce with a fork, about 35 minutes.

Using a flat meat tenderizer or flat-bottomed glass, press the potatoes down to smash them slightly—just until the sides burst. Turn oven up to 500ºF, return pan to oven with potatoes and cook for 15 more minutes, turning halfway through to crisp both sides.

Meanwhile, rub a deep bowl with the cut sides of the garlic. Add an amount of olive oil double to the amount of juice from the lemon (so, 1 tablespoon of juice means you’ll need 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and so on) to the bowl. Add the vinegar and whisk until it looks creamy—you’ve just created an emulisification (fancy word for properly blending the oil and vinegars). Season with salt and pepper to taste, remembering the potatoes have already been pre-seasoned in the pan.

Add the warm potatoes to the bowl with a bit of parsley and toss well to coat. Let sit for 5 minutes to soak up the dressing. Serve warm.

Some more potato salad ideas from my friends at Food Network’s Summer Soiree:
Chez Us: Baked Potato Salad
The Heritage Cook: French Potato Salad with Haricot Vert (Gluten-Free)
Weelicious: Blue and White Potato Salad
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Mom’s Potato Salad (the Best Ever!)
Red or Green: Spicy Potato Salad with Jalapeno and Vinegar Vinaigrette
Feed Me Phoebe: Healthy Greek Potato Salad
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Creamy Potato Salad with Mint
FN Dish: 10 New Ways to Do Up Potato Salad


  • Olga @ MangoTomato

    in the middle of sending you a DM, it said you no longer follow me.
    I was going to say that this was a very raw and emotional post to read, so I can only imagine how hard it must have been to write. Thank you for being so honest!
    Alas we all have demons and sad childhood memories. Good luck dealing with yours!

  • Britt

    I happened to catch Oprah the other day and she said something that really stuck with me. She said that forgiveness does not mean that you condone what a person has done, it doesn’t mean that you need to invite them back into your life, and it doesn’t make your hurt any less significant. Her favorite definition: Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. I have a lot of very difficult things in my own past that occasionally flare up and feel painful in the now, so this really resonated with me. I feel like it’s a good mantra when that feeling of past loss creeps in, and doesn’t need to apply to ‘forgiveness’ specifically. This post made me think of those words again, and I thought I’d share in case you recognized something in them for yourself as well. 🙂

  • elizabuf

    ohhhhhh, jennie, we are sisters… my daddy lived inside of a bottle of jack daniels, and watching his sober self take such loving care of my daughter now has me vascilation between despair and longing and over to crimson, absolute rage……
    be with it, let it be what it is, and one day you’ll look up at the sky and watch it float away. you have every right to feel ripped off; you were. and then we just get up and somehow keep on keeping on… and doing better for our own.
    i hear you. xoxo, buf

  • Alyse

    You are not alone. We have 2 sons, and I remember watching them as tiny babies. They were so helpless and I love them so. So does my husband. They are teenagers now and wonderful to be with.
    But, I, too, go to that sadness of what I had and didn’t have and the rottenness of what I got. I can’t say that it will go away or get better. But, our boys will never know that pain, never ever.
    Ironic how food, sounds, or situations can bring it all back.

  • Barbara | VinoLuciStyle

    We have a commonality in our family history, though it was my mother who was the alcoholic but I, and obviously others, know so well the pain you deal with. That you have been able to move into adult life with such a desire for a different life for your family is huge.
    I wish I had some great sage advice on how to embrace what you have now and let go of the pain of your past but we all move in our own time on our own path. Maybe knowing that you have sisters everywhere, if not by birth, by circumstance, that you can share with that will help the healing.
    Take good care of you. XOXO

  • Heather Jones

    Hold Tight Jennie and know that your virtual family is with you every step of the way. You will heal, no one can say when but you will get that peace that you so deserve. Have Faith.

  • Mairi @ Toast

    A really touching post, I was also just oddly reading about forgiving…and the giving part of that word being the key. Along the lines of what Britt says a few comments up. I am really enjoying reading your blog, your stories and your recipes. So if you have a moment check out Toast where I have a nice little award waiting for you.

  • renee

    I am so sorry for your pain. I too have an alcoholic in my immediate family, as well as other painful memories that are at times overwhelming. I have learned that self-care is important and that there is an ebb and flow of these strong self-condemning feelings. You will not always feel bad. Use self-care as a way to rebuild your relationship with yourself. Cooking is a wonderful, creative outlet. I hope it continues to give you comfort.