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I'm boiling potatoes for lunch, what some people call supper. Sometimes I make an entire meal of potatoes. I focus on the taste of salt, something I tend otherwise to limit, the distinct flavor of the butter, nothing quite like it, and the bland taste of the potatoes themselves. Almost bland. The kitchen is filled with the smell of boiling potatoes, a smell anyone would recognize. The challenge, I think, is transferring that distinctive smell to the tongue. Potatoes are a kitchen meal, I think. They're best consumed close to the pot they were boiled in. I haven't yet decided if red wine interferes with or enhances the taste. It's an ongoing experiment.

It's unusual that anyone bothers to comment on potatoes. How often have you heard, "These are really good potatoes," unless they were fancied up a bit? Or, unless someone was really straining for a compliment. Mashed potatoes are one of the few things I treasure from a disastrous marriage to a Parisian woman. I treasure my children, of course, but mashed potatoes are something else again. I learned to add cream, butter and Bon Bel Cheese in completely unreasonable amounts, and to make tons of potatoes at a time. The leftovers, after they are nice and cold, can be shaped like fancy cookies and baked in the oven. If you counted the cheese wrappers and the butter boxes, you'd know exactly why they brown so beautifully. They are the one sort of potato, I find, that everyone comments on.

Hot dogs weren't always the maligned things they are today. When I ate them as a child — they were a staple of early 1950s cuisine — I never considered their sodium nitrate content. Nor had the word "byproducts" entered my persnickety vocabulary. Hot dogs, or wieners, as we sometimes giggled, were a salty taste explosion that had no equal. Of course, American hot dogs pale by comparison to the ubiquitous Danish pølser (ubiquitous in Denmark anyway) or the French saucisson. As it turns out, there's an entire world of sausages to experience, but hot dogs are still hot dogs. Today's hot dogs, the ones I'll be having with boiled, salted and well buttered potatoes, are turkey dogs, not really hot dogs at all, but they're 40% lower in fat, which means I can use 60% more butter. Something like that.

Not the wine I'm drinking as I type, which would have to be described as on the low end of acceptable for these parts — I'm at the geographic center of an emerging wine region — but the wine we used to drink with hot dogs. A more recent memory, not a childhood one. Our neighbor worked for a major winery in the area. They have employee sales now and then to get rid of odd lots and leftovers. It does wonders for morale. He left a case of white wine on the back porch with a few stray bottles thrown in for good measure. When we gushed over his generosity, he cautioned us to go easy because he had paid less than a dollar a bottle — much less — including two rather expensive reds. It was summer, so we were living outside with the BBQ. Red wine or beer with plank steak, white wine with hot dogs. The hot dogs were mostly to satisfy my childhood tastes. Anyway, we plowed through the case of cheap white wine, calling it Hot Dog Wine. Ah, summer. We never drank so much. When it finally ran out, we went to the store for another case, but there was obviously a mistake. The cheap white wine that we had come to depend on was nearly twice the price of the red wine with plank steak. Hot Dog Wine? What were we thinking?! We didn't barbecue another hot dog all summer.
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