The Last Roast Potato

Sunday Lunch at Nan's  as usual.  „Roastbeef with yorkshire puddings“ von HotBabyHot in der Wikipedia auf Deutsch - Übertragen aus de.wikipedia nach Commons.(Originaltext: selbst fotografiert). Lizenziert unter Gemeinfrei über Wikimedia Commons
Sunday Lunch at Nan’s as usual. „Roastbeef with yorkshire puddings“ von HotBabyHot in der Wikipedia auf Deutsch – Übertragen aus de.wikipedia nach Commons.(Originaltext: selbst fotografiert). Lizenziert unter Gemeinfrei über Wikimedia Commons

It’s midway through Sunday lunch somewhere in England.  Roast beef with all the trimmings.  There sits, on your Nan’s prized serving dish with the dainty pink roses delicately painted around the edges, the Last Roast Potato.  You want it.  You crave it.  And you know that the rest of the family is secretly vying for it too, including, whilst smelling of his usual Old Spice, Uncle Colin who managed to usurp The Last Potato of Loveliness the last five Sunday lunches.  You need to make your move now.

“Excuse me, does anybody else want the last roast potato?”

The grizzled stares come your way.  Your family shakes their heads and mutter their noes while you grab the Golden Starch of Deliciousness as your trophy for your clever timing and your Montgomery-like battle strategy.  For you, you Clever Clogs, have triumphed in possessing The Last Roast Potato.

The complete inability to say, “I want _____,” at the dining table is one of those strange English etiquette things that I have no idea how to explain.  All I know is that you are treated as if you grew another eyeball if you so much as lay claim on the last of anything.  Being that most people do not have the refrigerator and freezer space to hold lots of leftovers, the English do not have the propensity to make extra to ensure everyone gets to stuff themselves silly.  So, we are left with Last Roast Potato standoffs like the ones we see above.

The Boffin here…let me interject:  One of the joys of a Roast Potato is the crack of the crust as you slowly break it open with your knife or fork (usually the latter).  If cooked correctly, they are crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.  As a result, the last roast spud cannot be shared because only one person will get that pleasure while the other scenario leaves two people with two piles of mush.  If an argument does ensue over whose turn it is to get the last potato, then Uncle Colin usually reaches over and surreptitiously solves the problem.

In my family, if no one would touch the Last Roast Potato at the table, once the plates were clearly away into the kitchen, the food was fair game.  Since we weren’t bound by etiquette at the dining table, we could reenact Lord of the Flies with tubers.  And don’t think this mode of behavior is only tied to potatoes.  The Last Yorkshire Pudding has left many resentments amongst relatives.

OK, it’s Karen again.  Let’s flip the coin.  Imagine, if you will, a poor unsuspecting person who didn’t know the game.  A foreigner.  An American.  Someone like yours truly who actually took the roast potato when it was offered, but I was also a guest who was eating roast potatoes for the first time.  So I was creating an English etiquette wormhole.  I can imagine what was going on my my hosts’ minds because I certainly felt the tension.

“Must be gracious to our foreign guest who loves our food and is thanking us profusely, but she is taking the Last Roast Potato!  Neurons short-circuiting!”

It would help if the U.K. issued a pamphlet to us when we first entered the country.

“Don’t talk in lifts.”

“A chicken salad sandwich has cooked chicken with lettuce and tomato.  What you want is chicken mayo.”

“Don’t take the last roast potato or Yorkshire pudding when offered.”

It really would make life a lot easier.

26 thoughts on “The Last Roast Potato

  1. Taking the last of anything in our big family — five kids — was grounds for endless harassing when I was growing up. The same was true of my husband — whose smaller family of three kids had the same “don’t eat the last of anything” rule.

    Our son, an only child, thinks it’s hilarious. He will go into the pantry and take the last whatever and dance in front of us while he finishes it off, laughing all the while.

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    1. That’s interesting. I am the youngest of three, but we never had that rule. Mom and Dad just kept a rough idea of who got the last of certain things and kept things evenly distributed. They did a pretty good job of it. I am not left feeling like my brothers got most of the good food. So this is beyond my understanding.

      The Sprog, being an only, has no qualms about taking the last of anything either, if she wants it. If anything, little bits at the bottom of packages linger in my pantry, so I wish she would take more of the last of stuff.

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  2. Love this. So true – I always think I made enough but however many I do – there is always that last roast potato issue – However, where I am, the main guest should always be offered the last potato first and if they get it that’s a problem solved. This is also the etiquette with the last sandwich and the last biscuit.

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  3. In my mom’s kitchen, if you wanted seconds, you’d have to get up, with your plate in hand, and go over to the pot/pan on the stove, and get it yourself. You didn’t know if there was the last of something, until you were standing over it. No one ever alerted the rest of the family, while they were at the stove!

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        1. I can understand that part, Dana. It wasn’t a matter of leaving someone hungry. It was a matter of manners. If some wanted more mashed potatoes too and didn’t have the chance to get any because another person hogged them all, that is what we were punished for. My parents were teaching us sharing and courtesy.

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              1. Haha! We didn’t even think of it that way. We just thought “Cool, there’s still a little bit of potatoes left!” Then the next person thought “Oh, no more potatoes, oh well. Let’s see if there’s more kraut. ” (Cooked cabbage with bits of bacon and caraway seeds)

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                1. As long as you were cool with it as a family, that’s all that matters. The Sprog has to ask before she finishes anything, but we eat family style most of the time.

                  I grew up in Pennsylvania. I am very well acquainted with German food, so kraut was thrusted upon me whether I liked it or not. I can’t eat it. It’s a crime against humanity, as far as I am concerned. I prefer the Polish style cooked cabbages. My heritage wins. What can I say?

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                  1. I don’t like the kind they sell with hot dogs, it’s not cooked enough. I like my kraut well done (cooked until soft), and I love the flavor that the bits of bacon gives it! 🙂

                    There’s also a dish called Schinken Flecken, which is a mixture of soft cooked cabbage, noodles and a lot of little bits of ham, with a creamy egg coating, that gives it all cohesion. Sooooo yummy! 🙂

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  4. We were raised with the same set of rules as your Boffin. You never took the last ‘anything’ from the serving platter. To this day it just seems natural to me to ask, “does anyone else want that last X?”.

    My Auntie Sheila used to FILL everyone’s plates and set them on the table. She’d give you a bit of everything and top it all with gravy. Absolutely horrifying for a picky eater who doesn’t want their food to touch (that would be me). If you wanted extras of anything, you had to ask her and she would take your plate to the kitchen and add one teeny, tiny slice of roast. Of course, there would be no more roast if you hadn’t finished your parsnips. Blech.

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          1. You know how some people stick gum under tables? You can do the same with mushy veg, if you smear it thinly. I guess I really am a sneak! 🙂

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      1. That’s why you could write so much about it! The dessert puddings, Yorkshire Pudding, all the other types of pudding they have in England! I don’t know how many kinds there are, but I bet you and the Boffin could say so much on the subject! 🙂

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