Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing Wednesday: If You Think You Can, You Can. Except When You Can't.

When I was young, I was a very picky eater.  I didn't like pasta sauce, so I would eat the noodles plain with salt and pepper.  I didn't like ketchup, onions, pickles, mayo or tomatoes, so my hamburgers were garnished with mustard only.  And I didn't like potatoes.  

I'm not sure why that last one was such a big deal, but in my family, it was.  I didn't like them in any form: not mashed, grilled, baked, twice-baked, or in a salad.  (I might have liked them fried, but french fries don't really count as potatoes, do they?)  I can't even count how many times relatives told me it was a good thing I wasn't born in Ireland.  

One evening, before a Sunday dinner at my Grandma's house, I decided--made up my mind, just like that--that I liked potatoes.  After all, how many times had my parents cajoled me to eat something by saying, "just try it--you'll like it"?  

I walked into the living room and announced to my family, "I like potatoes now."  My tone was definitive enough that they didn't even question me.  I remember them being happy for me; although, looking back, I'm not sure that they actually cared all that much.  At six years old, though, I was pretty proud of myself.  I'm sure that I was too young to be familiar with the phrases "mind over matter" or "attitude determines altitude" or other such platitudes, but Grandma had read me The Little Engine that Could enough times that the basic idea had penetrated my impressionable psyche.  (Side note: even to this day, I still hear Grandma's voice in my head when I look at that book--she has a very pleasant, distinctive reading style.  And she read to me often.)  

I proudly marched into the dining room, excited to eat my potatoes.  I served myself a generous helping.  I buttered and salted and peppered, then brought the fork to my lips.  I imagined all eyes were watching, sharing this moment with me.  The moment I'd join the potato-eaters club.  The moment that would ensure I'd never have to hear about Ireland's potato famine ever again.  

I chewed and quickly swallowed, working hard to keep my face neutral.  

I did not like potatoes, as it turned out.  Did not like their mealy texture.  Did not like their bland taste.  Did not like them.  Did not.  

I don't remember the details of the rest of the evening, but I'm sure I eventually had to fess up.  To eat my words.  It was no fun.  I sometimes wonder if this event was the death of any budding optimism I may have had and, in turn, the birth of my cynicism, skepticism, pessimistic realism.  

Is there power in positive thinking?  Sure.  But thinking something's so doesn't necessarily make it so.  

And, yes, I did hear about the potato famine several more times over the ensuing years.

And, yes, I do like potatoes now.  


  1. that is hilarious! What a great story.

  2. Your story has inspired me. I am going to try an olive for the first time since I was first exposed to their nastiness.

  3. Wow, I'll have to be careful what I serve if we have you guys over again. I didn't realize you guys were so picky :)

  4. I didn't like them either growing up, maybe it's a kid/texture thing? I still cannot force myself to eat them mashed, yuck. But I do love them in other forms.

    I can totally see you saying that, your cute 6 year old self!!!

  5. You should write a book. Really.

    Also, french fries DO count as potatoes since according to Web MD, "French fries are the most commonly eaten vegetable for toddlers aged 15 to 24 months." So, I guess you weren't lying as a six year old :) You aren't that pessimistic anyway...think of how many times we have overcome the odds while playing pinochle!!

    I'm serious about my book comment. I think you are an amazing writer.

    Oh, and you guys can come over here so Jay can try an olive. That way you won't have to waste an entire can :)

  6. I often hear that you and I are insanely alike. This post, I believe, has proved that common comment to be false.

  7. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your question from my blog on July 18th! For making the collages I use the program called Picasa. My sister introduced me to it. You can download it for free at It lets you organize and edit your photos and is pretty self explanatory and easy. I think it's a Mac only program though. There is a similar program that Jessica uses as well but I don't recall what it's called that might work for a PC. I can find out if you are interested. Also, we have had Kellie with take our photos the last couple of times and have been very pleased with her work. She's gone up in her price though so I might go somewhere else next time. Anyway, I really love reading your Wednesday Writings. :) Next time you're in town I would love to get together and catch up.

  8. Only you could make a story about eating potatoes this interesting. I'm impressed that you remember things from age 6. I'm lucky to remember my teenage years.

    I spent an entire 4 months trying to convince myself that cucumbers and broccoli tasted as good as chocolate. Mind over matter didn't work so well for me either.