I smell trouble! A roadmap to find your way out of conflict + Rustic Smashed Potatoes
If there is one thing I learned in culinary school, it was to always taste my food before plating.
I could count on a cadre of spoons firmly packed inside a plastic, 32-ounce restaurant food container to assist in determining if a dish needed more seasoning.
Not just an important task before serving but also at every step along the way.
Sensory landmarks map out the success of any dish.
This is the wisdom of Samin Nosrat, chef and author of Salt Fat Acid Heat* (Simon & Schuster, 2017).
But first, she shares, we need to know what we’re after before we can make a meal.
Take her example of mashed potatoes. There’s a difference between just mashed potatoes and “flavorful, snowy white mashed potatoes.”
You start at the end, what you’re hungry for, and work your way back using your senses – what you see, taste, smell, hear, and touch – to determine how you’ll cook with your ingredients.
I’m not a fan of mashed potatoes. I know. Scandalous! Don’t invite me over for Thanksgiving. But I do love crispy, tender smashed potatoes with butter and herbs. (Ok, maybe invite me over for Thanksgiving).
To get the crisp, I know I need to fry them in a sizzling skillet. I use olive and listen for the pop, pop, pop.
But they also have to be tender. So I’ll bake and boil them. The touch of a knife puncturing potato skin is a clear sign.
They’ll need a good amount of flavor. The water needs to be salty. I’ll add more than a pinch to the pot. Bay leaves add background flavor.
Now we’re ready to fry.
I toss in some herbs and spoon in some butter. It should smell woodsy and astringent.
Each of these sensory landmarks build upon themselves to yield the right kind of potatoes, so I know I’m headed in a good direction.
A map that becomes a recipe.
I love this approach because it’s similar to how I try to understand conflict between two people.
We start at the end, identifying the disconnection and what they’re hoping for – closeness, connection, and safety. To feel seen and understood, held in the safety of each other’s arms.
We work our way back, sensing the cues they see and hear, perceiving the meaning they make, and tapping into emotions that drive them apart.
Feeling – or using our senses – is the only way we can discover how we get so off course.
Maybe you’re thinking: I can’t smell or taste my way through an argument.
No, not technically, but you can allow your body to take in input happening in front and also inside of you. You can stay open and curious and then reach for a possible understanding about what you are sensing. The key word being “possible.”
We do this naturally, without even thinking.
That’s part of the trouble. We jump to conclusions and forge ahead without referencing our starting point.
Because if I’m actually going to reach for your arms, just like I’m wanting those crispy, tender potatoes, is what I’m thinking, feeling, and doing matching up?
Using our senses can help us get there so we can share between one another what we are actually really hungry for.
Download my FREE Recipe for Connection: A Roadmap for Relationships PDF to help restore closeness, connection, and safety with someone you love.
*I highly recommend her book for learning the basics of cooking. You can find it here:
Rustic Smashed Potatoes