Gimme the Potatoes and No One Gets Hurt

I can quit any time I want to. Really.

Okay, I admit I made a little scene at the grocery store. It certainly wasn’t my first embarrassing moment at Gelson’s. It wasn’t even my first grocery-related trauma of the day.

Several months ago Ralph’s ran out of Frosty Paws. Frosty Paws is a non-dairy ice-cream-like frozen treat for dogs. It comes in the little white plastic cups with the cardboard top you pull off. It’s supposed to be like ice cream, but the dogs react more like it’s doggie heroin–one taste and they’re hooked. We had exhausted all the local Ralphs’ supplies, and they said they were going to reorder but they never did. By the way, my assistant, Paula, really enjoys having to ask the clerk if they have Frosty Paws, then spend ten minutes explaining…. We were down to the last two in the freezer. The weather was getting warmer. It was time to step up the search.

Paula called the manufacturer. They told her Lucky’s and Albertson’s also carry them, although they couldn’t guarantee any store had them in stock at the moment. Paula asked if we could order them directly.

“Oh, no, we don’t sell to individuals. Our minimum order is too high.”

“What’s the minimum?”

“8 cases.”

“How many boxes in a case?”

“100.” Let’s see, with four in box, times 100, times 8…. I told Paula I was going to need a bigger freezer. It turned out Paula was able to find 10 boxes. She asked if she could take two boxes for her dog. I considered asking her if she had any more secretly hidden in her car, but thought she might consider that an aspersion on her integrity. At least, for now, the crisis had been averted.

My other problem was looking much more hopeless. You see, on Sunday Gelson’s was giving out free samples of Huxtable’s mashed potatoes. I was skeptical. My mashed potatoes are very important to me. I have been known to order an entrĂ©e in a restaurant merely because it’s the one the potatoes come with. My friend Bob and I have spent many hours (uh, not on company time, of course!) debating the merits of warming the liquids before adding (yes), which potatoes to use (Yukon Gold), what to add (sour cream, butter, heavy cream, ground black pepper, grated cheese optional), whether to use a ricer (depends). I own seven different potato mashers and three ricers. Let’s just say it’s a subject dear to my heart.

So I was convinced reheated, pre-prepared mashed potatoes sold in a store could not possibly be good. But, dedicated explorer that I am, I had to try them.

Oh. My. God. They were amazing. This is Frosty Paws for humans–one bite and you may find yourself racing through the grocery store, elbowing aside the little old lady with the walker. Reaching the aisle and stepping up your speed to cut off that couple heading for your (YOUR) potatoes. Pawing through the boxes three times (OK, four) to make sure you didn’t miss any. Not that I did any of this.

When I got home, I was only going to eat half a package (the box says “Serves 4″–ha!). I ate the whole thing and contemplated licking the dish, but the dogs were eyeing me with pity. Lousy condescending frozen-treat-addicted hounds, what do they know? I was at the store as soon as possible the next day. They were out of the mashed potatoes. The butcher stocking the shelf explained,
“We were giving out samples yesterday.”

I hissed, “I KNOW you were, how do you think I got hooked?” He thought they would get another shipment soon–10 days or less. In ten days I would be out of town for a week. Struggling to keep the panic out of my voice, I asked him if I could special order some. Nope. The butcher vehemently denied my long-held belief that Gelson’s hires someone to follow me around, write down all my favorite foods, then immediately discontinue them. He’s probably right–they just get the information on the computer when I check out.

I think I acted with restraint. I did not rush past the butcher into the back and start throwing open doors to find the butchers’ secret stash. I did not grab a cleaver and hold him hostage until Huxtable’s delivered the goods. I just smiled and politely thanked him for his help. At which point he leaned over, winked, and said, “Those sure are good potatoes, aren’t they?” Butchers are a cruel and sadistic breed.

So, as I watch my dogs blissfully devouring their Frosty Paws, my empty plate before me, I am not bitter. I am a bigger person than that. However, it just occurred to me that I might fish the box out of the trash and track down these Huxtable people. I wonder what their minimum order is? Gotta go….

P.S.–A few days after I sent this story out to my friends, I got a phone call. An unfamiliar voice said, “You are a very funny woman. You might have some issues you need to work on in therapy. And I’m certain you have way too much time on your hands.” I told her that all of those observations had been made before. Then I asked who it was.

It was Vicky. Vicky Huxtable. Of Huxtable’s mashed potatoes. Uh huh. She had read my story out loud to her whole company–they loved it. She told me new secret places to find her products (Don’t tell anyone–Von’s. In New York City, Food Emporium.) I told her I didn’t know if she was a real person, like Sara Lee or Betty Crocker, but she said she was pretty sure she was real. She promised to send me coupons.

All day long, I was saying things to Paula like, “If VICKY calls, I’ll be back in an hour.” Or, “Did I mention that VICKY’s sending me coupons?” Paula asked if I had told her I once bought the turkey meatloaf dinner and threw out the meatloaf just to eat the potatoes. I replied that VICKY and I had much more important things to discuss. Besides, I only did that once when I was having a really really bad day, and the dogs loved the meatloaf.

Finally Paula looked at me and said, “For you, this is kind of like getting a call from Elvis, isn’t it?”

And, you know, in a way, it kinda was.

Need some Frosty Paws for your own hounds? Call those nice people at Associated Ice Cream for a store near you. 1-800-225-3636 And if you need to make your own, there’s a recipe.

Copyright 1997 by Janine Smith. Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission