Laundry List | Potatoes with Tomatoes

There was a time our happiness seemed never-ending, I was so sure that where we were heading was right. Life was a road so certain and straight and unbending, our little road with never a cross road in sight.. Back to Before by Stephen Flaherty

Last week I got the word about our dryer. He died an untimely death and went before the washer. She was still plugging away. I think you know why this is not ideal. Service, style, warranties and such. Besides my back door entry faces the laundry room door which is ever-ajar requiring a winsomeness aka matchy-matchy.

Certainly I am not a whiner, a trait banished generations ago by my people, so I proceeded quietly and researched a laundry duet. No fooling around in a world where appliances are said to last only 8 to 10 years. The clock is ticking.

A spanking new set will be delivered this week. So new that the store where I purchased them had not even unwrapped them for display from a shipment from God knows where. I have a friend who bizarrely purchased her last washer and dryer from Amazon. Geez. Power to the people but, a more insidious future world without the option to “look it over” is appalling to imagine.

Even so I feel a certain calm because I can still buy locally insuring tax dollars to our schools etc. Narrowing the search is not necessary. In my small town, we have two big box stores which carry machines. The personally owned appliance store with recommended repair people is a cry me a river memory.

And on that note, God bless the career of my repairman who has since retired. “What’ll I do?,” I ask the twelve year old sales assistant. “A call to the online number will advise you on how to get in touch for repairs. You will need extended warranties for both machines,” she says without lifting her head from the department computer screen.

Panicked at the thought of a cross country trip by said repairman, I consider my options. With so many conglomerates absorbing one another, which company is most likely to make good on the life of a machine? I feel like my old friend who once introduced me to his new truck. It was gleaming with bells and whistles. “This is the last truck I’ll ever buy,” he smiled as he polished the hood like my brother-in-law was known to pet his beloved dog.

Gazing at the sea of electronic display panels, I confess that bells and whistles were never a fantasy of mine. I think about the relentless avocado pair that my folks maintained for twenty plus years. I turn to the junior salesperson. “Sister, can I buy a dial?”

I will concede that these machines are revere worthy. Still with the passing of our generation, very few will ever give a backwards glance to the history of a world without the luxurious washer and dryer. A benediction is in order.

In the 1960s, I hung clothes on the line, took them down, fluffed and folded them for my Yazoo City grandparents. By that decade, they likely enjoyed a washing machine since the 1950s. I wish we had discussed their prior laundry histories. Wash boards and clotheslines and such.

Their washer was oddly located in a gigantic bathroom that anchored the house. The spinner was rambunctious and it caused the machine to travel a bit. I remember regarding it from the bathtub, my skinny legs floating in the soft, soapy delta water. As I eyeballed at my grandaddy’s long johns stretched on a metal man-form, looming over the front side of the machine, I considered the thought that he might jump into action and begin to chase me. I knew just where to run and hide – the green room.

For many years, my grandparents maintained an outdoor clothesline which was hidden from view. We would lug a heavy basket of towels, linens and unmentionables across the colossal back yard, past the stone barbecue to unlock a chain link fence embedded in a twenty foot wall of privet.

Behold, the back, back yard. Unveiled – a green room, perhaps a token of neighborly good manners for the clothesline which zig zagged with the assorted goods of a prior load. Suspended from the wooden clothespins, clean clothes sizzled in the still white heat of summer and saluted with ice crystals in winter.

Yes, checking the weather was involved as was deep breaths of fresh air. Channeling my grandparents’ intellect, I hoist aversion for the dryer sheet whose debut in the 1970s brought on an artificially chemical outdoor smell that gives me pause or is it nausea?

On the other side of the green room there was a vegetable garden and chicken coop. In those days I begged a laundry commission. (I’ll do the laundry, but don’t ask me to grab the eggs from under that hen, though I’ll gladly assist with breakfast.)

Which brings me ‘round to a theory I have that humans are either launderers or cooks. Rarely shall the two propensities be favored by one person. Clearly I’ll take kitchen duty any day.

Still putting things in order has a certain satisfaction; I just hope that the washer and dryer machine handbook will bring me peace of mind. Serious time will be saved, but most likely my ruffled soul will still prize duty in the green room.

Potatoes with Tomatoes

In addition to the gratitude that I feel for my home laundry, I am beholden to the Korean family who meticulously dry clean my specialty items. I am so happy that they made their home in Tennessee.

In the same way, I cherish the Indian cooks at Woodlands in Nashville who prepare a daily and divine Indian buffet. Often I am activated also to shop at Patel Brothers and duplicate some Woodland inspired favorites. The following traditional dish shared by Madhur Jaffrey makes use of summer bounty.

I tend to make something simple for the next meal when I am washing a load or two.

6 medium-sized waxy potatoes, about 1 1/3 pounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of ground asafetida
1/1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
3 whole dried hot red chilies
3 medium tomatoes (1/4 pound), grated on the largest holes of a grater
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt to taste

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until tender and allow them to cool. Peel.
Pour the oil into a wide, medium-sized pan, and set it over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add in first the asafetida, then the cumin and finally the fennel, fenugreek and chilies together.
Two seconds later, add the grated tomatoes and ginger.
Stir fry until the tomatoes turn a deep red and the oil begins to show, turning down the heat as the cooking progresses.
Add 1 1/2 cup water.
Now break the potatoes by hand into pieces that are roughly 1/2 inch cubes. They will be different shapes but that is the charm of the dish.
Add the potato cubes to the pan together with the salt, then stir and bring to a boil. Cover the pan turn the heat to low, and cook gently for about 12 minutes stirring now and again.

Serve with pooris, an unleavened deep-fried bread usually.