Throw another Potato

I nibbled on apple wedges as I read the electronic newspaper in the computer. Sadie, one of my copycats sat curled up snoozing in my lap. I clicked on the next page and found the advice column. It’s always interesting to find out what sort of dilemmas are currently bothering mankind, so I leaned back to read the first letter.

The writer complained bitterly about his relatives who dropped by his house unannounced, uninvited and unwanted. He furiously noted, “If they stop in at meal time, they expect to be invited and don’t take the hint when we fail to set a place at our table for them!”

I caressed the cat in my lap. Sadie’s fur was very soft and she began to purr. Jerry, Sadie’s copycat brother suddenly leapt onto my lap. Snuggling together, Jerry began to lick Sadie. I mused, “You didn’t need an invitation. You’re welcome whenever you feel like dropping in, aren’t you?”

The letter was followed by several other letters from people also complaining about family members who felt it was their right to drop in whenever they wanted. Reading these letters made me laugh and think of Daddy.

Visitors to the farm were infrequent when I was a child. When someone pulled into our yard before one of our meals, Daddy would jokingly say, “Throw another potato in the pot, Mama. We have company.”

I once asked, “Why do you always say that?”

He chuckled, “If unexpected company stops for a visit before a meal, the cook can stretch the food by adding another potato to the stew, or by adding water to the soup to make sure there’s enough to go around.”

Mom and Daddy never seemed to mind the few times we had a surprise guest at mealtimes. But I did notice that Mom made our simple fare stretch by supplying the table with extras, such as pickles, slices of cheese, and bread. She also made sure everyone had plenty of water, milk or coffee. I couldn’t make out if that was mere hospitality, or her making sure the extra mouth didn’t result in anyone feeling hunger.

Although Mom didn’t seem to mind unexpected guests for a meal, one of her basic rules of proper conduct was that we never visit friends or neighbors during the times they were most likely to sit down together as a family to eat.

Daddy’s favorite phrase has stayed with me all these years. I was once driving down an unfamiliar road with my children in the backseat. When I realized I was lost and needed to turn around, I pulled into a farmyard driveway. A curtain in the house moved, as if someone was peeking out to see who was coming for a visit. Without thinking, I blurted, “I’m not staying, so don’t bother throwing another potato in the pot!”

My grade school children questioned, “What are you talking about, Mom?” My family story explanation sounded lame. I guess you had to know Daddy’s sense of humor and to have been there to understand.

My reminiscing was interrupted when one of the white and black kittens slid off my crowded lap. The one left looked up at me and purred. I told my furry companion, “Daddy’s ‘Throw another potato in the pot’ must have come straight out of the Great Depression when everyone was struggling to get enough to eat. Apparently, when an uninvited visitor arrives at mealtime these days, a cook is more likely to throw the potato at the guest!”  

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