I had some hash browns today. My brother and I went to a local joint about a half mile from my house and walked back with a stack of hash browns crispy, salty, and shining with just slightly too much butter. As god intended.
I got into my leftover hash browns about an hour ago, holding off for so long because I am a titan of willpower and endurance. I put them in the oven and inhaled my earthy carbs as they warmed to readiness, filling my kitchen with memories of that day.
I’ve written a little about how my memories are linked closely to smell. I think part of the reason I adore food so much is because of how much history is in each sliver of a whiff that treks across my counter top. Preparing a meal is more than making something delicious and complete; it is getting to relive parts of my life that sat, unseasoned and raw, in the cold storage of my sleeping heart.
My hash browns filled the kitchen as they heated, and I remembered the brisk walk to the restaurant, the coffee shop we passed and how I wondered if my run that afternoon would cancel out the carb shenanigans from the potatoes. I sniffed in the nostalgia riddled layers of hash browns from other breakfasts at other restaurants, remembering how too much oil and being undercooked changed the scent, hearing the scrape of fork on diner porcelain, pouring on the salt because salty bad is better than uneaten and resentful. I floated on an inhale, back to my mother’s hash browns, chopped in perfect miniature cubes and seasoned differently every time, tossed in butter and oil and crisped to golden brown flawlessness before being placed in glistening triumph on an artsy ceramic plate.
I trailed that breath to college, where I couldn’t afford the copays on my insulin, and tried to make each bottle last two months, even though the last three weeks meant the insulin had stopped working as well, and I would run perpetually high. I remember potatoes being cheap and filling and towards the end of the two months, they’d be all that was left. So, I’d be there with my belligerent sugars and a plate of homemade hash browns, and I’d try to eat it before vomiting and crying and just going to bed. I sat on the lung fill of those failed potatoes that kept happening and haunt my fevers and flus to this day.
And when I let go the waft of my failing, ailing, health, and my failed, addled, hash browns during my college years, I tumbled, gasping, into my first few years on an insulin pump, and the sweet lilting control that is found in healthcare I could pay for and rely on, and the startling glory of mashed potatoes with oven roasted garlic and caramelized onions. I insufflated the newfound excitement in potatoes from my childhood that I’d forgotten, a simple rich joy found in crispy cubes of buttery satiation that fill my lungs and my heart without the later lonely taint of barely holding on.
My hash browns are hot now, and steaming in a bowl. Hubs has just gotten home. And as my lips close around each steady forkful, I am comforted. I know that the next time I infuse my air with my earthy baked tubers, my grin at seeing him for the first time all weekend will be wrapped around that first inhale.