swept up in the momentum

I’ve never been much of a football fan. Oh, when I was in the 9th grade, the quarterback of my high school football team was a lean beautiful boy who threw tight spirals down a long green field. (Improbably, his name was Track.) A few times, my father and I climbed high in the bleachers on what felt like chilly Friday nights — I grew up in Southern California, so it was probably 65 degrees — and stomped our feet on the wooden boards beneath us as the team marched down that field. I remember being so swept up in the momentum of the crowd feeling that I jumped up and down, shouting “Go Track, go!” with the couple hundred other people doing the same. It felt good, in that moment, to be part of something.

That’s the last time I attended a football game.

Baseball has always been more my thing. All those clean lines, clear rules, and individual moments of triumph. Oh, how I loved baseball as a kid, sitting on the floor of my living room listening to Vin Scully call out the plays, a Dodger dog in one hand, my glove on the other. In those days, I bled Dodger blue. I was convinced I would be the first woman in the Major Leagues, then crushed when I wasn’t allowed to play Little League because I was a girl. I still think my most triumphant moment in life might have been when the 5th-grade boys didn’t want me to play softball with them at PE, even though I had to go all the way to the principal to advocate for the right to play. I begged them to let me take one at bat. If I struck out, I’d be backstop catcher. (That’s the person who stands behind the catcher, and picks up the balls that skip between his legs.) After arguing back and forth, the boys allowed me to stand at the plate. I hit a home run.

So I have no essential problem with sports.

Football, to me, feels like war. All that marching and whistles and smashing and strategy. I know those men are padded well, but every time I see one enormous man with bulging biceps and thighs the size of canned hams ram his head into the chest of another one, I cringe. It’s just not my thing, all that violence. I’m probably just too sensitive for this world. (People, I tear up when I watch Daniel Tiger with Lu, because I grow grateful that she has Mister Rogers in her life the way I did.) Seriously, I’m probably not meant for football.

But Danny? He’s a football fan. That’s not to say that he’s any less sensitive than I am. Sometimes I look over to see him listening to Lu tell a story about climbing a tree, and see her put her hand on his for a moment, and his eyes tear up. He has no violence in him. But he’s a boy from Colorado still, and he loves his Broncos.

All fall and winter, Lucy and I had a date Sunday afternoons. We spent a few hours at the library, choosing her latest towering stack of books, then went to our local tea shop to share a pot of gingerbread rooibos and a cheese plate with grapes to read every book in that toppling stack together. I cherish that time with her. We began that ritual so Danny could watch the Broncos, alone, unabashed to stand up and shout when something unexpected happened.

On Sunday, we had a house full of people watching with him.

super bowl spread_

You probably know the ending to this story already. Surrounded by a crowd of people dressed in blue and green, my man in orange watched his team end their season in ignominy. After the game, sweetly, a dozen of our friends texted him, saying, “Sorry, Danny. Better luck next time.” And to his credit, he recovered immediately. He laughed with our friends and went on with our feasting. He’s the most loyal person I know. He’s a fan, no matter what. There’s always next year.

Me? I didn’t care who won, either way. It was great fun to watch the area I live in relax into that crowd momentum for days before the game. On Friday, I walked through our island grocery store confused by the number of people dressed in football jerseys around me. Even the old hippie couple buying seitan in the produce section wore Seahawks winter hats with tassels. (It turns out the grocery store was offering 12% off the purchases of anyone wearing regalia for the team, in honor of the 12th man. I would have painted my fingernails blue and green, if I had known.) As my brother said to me the day before, we could probably use more reasons to paint our faces and chant songs together in this world. There’s not enough communal spirit in this culture.

Right now, there are thousands of people camped out on the streets in downtown Seattle. Some of them huddled into sleeping bags in 19° weather and slept on sidewalks overnight to stake their claim to a piece of concrete. There’s a giant parade in honor of the Seahawks going on. I hear coffee shops and restaurants are running out of coffee. Now this is a Seattle story. This is a polite city. After the game was over, clutches of people took to the streets to celebrate, waiting until the light turned green to throng into the streets, then dispersing when cars needed to drive through. (There was a hashtag on Twitter: #howseattleriots. My favorite? “Buying out all the Skittles in the city but not eating them because of the corn syrup.”) As little as I want to sleep on the streets in the cold to watch cars full of football players drive by, I sort of grin when I think of it. We could use some more wide-open cheering these days.

The friends who gathered at our house for the Super Bowl aren’t the types to go downtown for a parade in the cold. Michelle is a nurse and professional skeptic. She kept asking Tony, “Wait, why did that team stop throwing passes?” And he explained first downs to her, and the frustration of not getting one. Marie is a social worker and advocate for children with different learning abilities. She most enjoyed following Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter, talking about the physics of football as the game went on. The kids romped and played, pretending to be interested in the game, far more interested in the commercials at times, since most of them had never seen one. (We all, as one, diverted their attention when the violent video game commercials came on.) There was a lot of conversation about how creepy the computer-generated lines on the field are, because they’re so realistic. We sort of watched the game.

Mostly, we gathered. We were the isle of misfit toys Super Bowl party.

Last week, when I posted a link to a spread of gluten-free treats Saveur magazine featured, someone wrote me an angry email: “Saveur? For the Super Bowl? What, tortilla chips and bean dip are beneath you? You don’t have to be a snob to be gluten-free.” I laughed, actually. But it also made me wonder. I wonder what happened in her day to make her this angry. I wonder where we got the idea that we have to march ourselves into separate, contained corners. “I’m a football fan. I’m the kind of person who disdains football and can’t believe all this ridiculousness. I eat real food. I eat normal food without making a fuss.” Can’t we stop playing war with our likes and habits?

I’m a woman who doesn’t much like football who enjoyed the heck out of the Superbowl, surrounded by friends who don’t much understand the game, and ate roasted kabocha squash wrapped in crisp prosciutto and smoked salmon potato cakes with parsley dressing for the big game. And a handful of Skittles to celebrate the Seattle victory, after Lucy pressed them into my palm.

Life’s too short to not enjoy it, any way it arrives.

 

smoked salmon potato cakes

 

Smoked Salmon Potato Cakes

Yield: about 24 to 30

We’re pretty crazy about potatoes around here. Ahern is an Irish name, of course. Honestly, if we have a day without potatoes, Danny starts to feel a little squirmy. Luckily, I have learned something great lately. If you cook potatoes, and let them cool, you reduce the glycemic index of the potato by half. Plus, cooked potatoes that have been cooled to room temperature form resistant starch, which is the kind of food the good bacteria in our guts love. Add smoked salmon and it’s a party.

Let’s eat potatoes!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds new red potatoes
  • 1/2 pound smoked salmon, chopped into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix of your choice (we used 2 parts almond flour, 1 part arrowroot)
  1. Set a large pot filled with cold, salted water on medium-high heat. Put all the potatoes inside. Bring the potatoes to a boil and let them cook until a sharp knife slides easily into the potato, 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes. Cool them completely, preferably overnight.
  3. The next morning, grate the potatoes on a box grater, skins and all, into a large bowl. Add the smoked salmon, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, egg, and potato starch. Season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Heat the oven to 425° Form a small cake in your hands. Dust both sides of the cake with the gluten-free flour. Set a large skillet over medium heat then pour in a bit of olive oil. Brown one side of the cake, then flip it over. Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Take the potato cake out of the oven. Let it cool enough so you don’t burn your mouth! Taste the cake. Happy? Proceed. Not quite? Season with more salt, pepper, or spices.
  5. Form the remaining potato mixture into equal-sized cakes and dust them in the flour. Set the skillet back on medium heat, then pour in more olive oil. Fill the skillet, reasonably, with potato cakes. (Think about a train at 10 am, not rush hour.) Brown the bottoms, then lay them on a sheet pan lined with greased parchment paper. When the sheet pan is filled, put it in the oven to continue cooking the cakes until they are firm to the touch and browned, 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Continue this until you have cooked all the cakes.

Notes

You can eat these hot from the oven. And you might want to, certainly. But I think they’re best cooled to room temperature, dolloped with a good homemade mayonnaise or parsley dressing, as we did here.

35 comments on “swept up in the momentum

  1. Wendy

    I am totally with you on the football thing. There is absolutely no reason for me to watch it. But, when invited by family or friends to gather and share, “Why Not”, is my motto! And I usually just vote for the underdog in the whole thing so I can have a team to root for and colors to wear. All in the name of community!
    Now about the potato thing.…I grew up and love to this day cold boiled potatoes just with salt and pepper. It is so crazy that they chemically change.….one more reason to enjoy them with abandon. I also eat cold, leftover home fried potatoes but not from a restaurant, too greasy.

  2. Paula

    Your tweets leading up to the game were pretty condescending, so I can see why some people who follow you might have gotten the idea that you were judging people who cared about the game. Food is important to people of all
    socio-economic classes, and it’s easy to get entrenched in your own point of view. Eating chips and dip isn’t equivalent to strip-mining or forcing children into prositition. Same with liking sports. My husband and his mates live for the Tour d’ France. I usually go shopping when they’re gathered in front of the television. He doesn’t join me for figure skating, and that’s fine.

      1. Paula

        Yes, I did read your post. You wrote
        “Last week, when I posted a link to a spread of gluten-free treats Saveur magazine featured, someone wrote me an angry email: “Saveur? For the Super Bowl? What, tortilla chips and bean dip are beneath you? You don’t have to be a snob to be gluten-free.” I laughed, actually. But it also made me wonder. I wonder what happened in her day to make her this angry. I wonder where we got the idea that we have to march ourselves into separate, contained corners.“
        But on Jan. 19, you wrote “most people in this are are single-minded right now. Goodness.“
        And that sort of comment might have led readers to feel judged. The Olympics are coming–lots of communal cheering opportunities there. I think there are quite a few around, actually–people just have to look around and join in.

        1. shauna

          I’m not sure why a comment I wrote on Twitter bothered you so much. If you lived in Seattle, you would have seen people here were single-minded! Everyone here would agree. There was a joy in that, which I wrote about in this post. But the post I wrote was also about accepting each other, and allowing ourselves to enjoy games we usually don’t watch, and feeding ourselves and our friends whatever we want. Chips and dip? Sure. Kabocha squash? Sure. It was also a piece about not boxing each other into tight corners, which you seem pretty determined to do with me here. If you felt judged by my comment on Twitter, that wasn’t my intention. You do seem to have a lot invested in this and I’m not sure why.

        2. andie

          I don’t think paula was trying to box you into a corner! I think she’s like me, a fan who has noticed a change in tone. You aren’t going to publish this,but if you read her comment again you’ll notice that her tone is respectful.

        3. Becca

          I’m glad you were able to enjoy the Super Bowl! While I never pay attention to the pro season, I always enjoy a good party. I live in the city of a recent champion team, and I understand the fever that takes over. I have to admit, I love the sense of community and spirit even as it catapults firmly over-the-top.

          I must admit that I also noticed a change in attitude when comparing your sentiments expressed via Twitter and this post. Obviously, the lack of a 140-character limit helps one express herself more clearly. There’s nothing wrong with being happy that football is over or not being a fan, of course. I just got the impression you were needling the football fans a little, and assumed it might be a private joke with someone close to you.

          Anyway, I don’t think that Paula has too much invested in this or any ulterior motive; it looks like she is just commenting on an observation she made. Consider the discourse part of the anthropological experience!

        4. shauna

          Goodness, who knew so many people were paying attention to what I was writing on Twitter and doing a comparison/contrast to what I write here! Twitter is ephemeral, of the moment, and 140 characters, as you said. It seems that some of you here remember what I wrote there in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl far better than I do. (The fact that people are going back to my Twitter feed to quote it back to me is a little bizarre!) Writing a piece is a way of gathering all those loose threads and making something more whole. If this piece doesn’t reflect what I wrote in the moment weeks ago, then fall back on Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

    1. leck

      I don’t really believe that the people commenting here are obsessively comparing your tweets to your blog and while I appreciate Walt Whitman as much as the next person, I can’t help but think that you could possibly acknowledge that your tone was condescending. Your inability to treat readers with respect is disappointing. Why not just say, “I really have trouble with Football and acted like a jerk on the internet, but I enjoyed the game in the end and I’m sorry?”

      It just seems like your internet presence is more competitive, combative, and aggressive than it was previously. Just take a minute. Breathe.

      I’ll be sharing this comment publicly.

      1. shauna

        I simply disagree. I don’t think I was a jerk on the internet, nor do I think I need to apologize for anything. But you do!

        1. leck

          Well. I guess we’ll agree to disagree. I think your tone has changed and I think your long-time readers are noticing. You think that we aren’t. Good luck.

      2. Paula

        I was such a fan of this site, and the books, but I think there’s been a change in tone. I’m probably not the demographic, after all. I was diagnosed with celiac, had been inspired by your writing, but am more and more disheartened by your posts. Catch ya’ on the flip side.

  3. Rachel

    I’m in Colorado and I got completely unexpectedly swept up in the SB for the first time ever. My daughter was completely invested in the table of foods and her good fortune to partake in a meal that spanned three hours.
    The potato salmon cakes look awesome.

    1. shauna

      It’s pretty great, isn’t it? Being able to put out a spread of food and share it with people is a joy.

  4. Kristen

    These look gorgeous, Shauna. I will make them for a brunch this weekend.

    I love that you’re cooking from the Chris Kresser template. He and the Jaminets have restored my health from full on mess to ready to have another baby.

  5. cari trousdale

    There is me and you and then there is Danny and Tina. You captured it perfectly. I work on Sunday’s so Tina can have her game time. I am sort of glad its over because in this house football spans the week. Your feast looks beautiful and your friends sound like my kind of people. As for the rest of it, I don’t know how you do it girl. I just don’t.

  6. elisa bosley

    I never post comments on blogs, but this time I just … can’t … resist …
    First: I, too, am not really a football fan; but I love my Colorado home and it was the Broncos, after all. AND I used to live in Seattle (both our kids were born there), so what a perfect game. But it was funny — for me it was all about hanging out with friends and food. I dug out an old nut-based dip recipe that I remembered loving and made it that morning — it’s awesome with rice crackers — and also took fixings for guacamole to my friend’s place, where a few Bronco faithful had gathered. (Not my husband, though; watching teams he loves is too stressful for him. He went to a movie.) And we had meatballs and egg sandwiches and brownies, too. It was fun munching … except for the munching that the Broncos got. But all is well and I’m happy for my Seattle friends.
    Second: A colleague of mine was at the Super Bowl, having won tickets for his whole family. He, of course, was hoping for a Broncos win, but something he said after the game really stuck with me. He said that the stadium crowd, though overwhelmingly Seattle fans, trash-talked and postured all in good fun. The crowd spirit was friendly, not warlike. As he put it, “American competition is alive and well.” That made me happy.
    Third: Vin Scully is my favorite announcer of all time, any sport. He is responsible for an iconic phrase in our household, which he uttered during the 1996 World Series (Yankees v. Braves) on the final 3–2 pitch of the final game (which were were listening to in the car, of all things): “Don’t you LOOOVE baseball?! …He can’t kneel down with the ball; he can’t freeze the ball … Sooner or later, he’s gotta throw it!” It’s that last phrase that is now part of our family lexicon. My husband actually found an audio clip of it and put it on a CD for me for Christmas.
    Thanks for a great post, Shauna. And tell Danny that we feel his pain.

  7. laurie bo

    These look amazing, Shauna. I’m going to make — and given that it’s 20 degrees out, don’t think I’ll have to cool them “overnight.” Just stick them on the back porch for a while! And I loved the bit about the Superbowl. I feel the same, and agree it was great for everyone to have that communal hop-haw going on. My son decided to stay home and watch with us and I was like, ‘What? But you never are home! I have no snacks!” Turns out, I had a bag of jumbo shrimp thawed and so we dined on jumbo shrimp while watching. It worked just fine!

  8. Jenn

    These sound great, Shauna — we love smoked fish but have never done cakes with them, will def. try this! I’m just a little confused why they are labeled as “paleo-friendly” though — I thought potatoes/potato starch were off limits for paleo? I could be wrong… I’m still trying to figure out exactly what paleo means as I have several friends who now eat paleo and I just want to make sure I’m doing things correctly when I cook for them… Wish I could have seen the game, sounds like it was a fun one!

    1. shauna

      Each person does his or her own way, Jenn. Lots of paleo folks, especially Chris Kresser, say that potatoes are perfectly fine for folks whose bodies tolerate them well. That’s why I called them paleo friendly. If your friends don’t eat potatoes, this might not be the dish!

      1. Laura

        If each person did it his or her own way, there would be no such thing as the “paleo diet.” According to the strict definition of such, white potatoes are not allowed. Chris Kresser is also anti-vax, so I wouldn’t take anything he says too seriously. Pre-sharing this comment in email with friends since I (and they, one of whom knows you) know it will never see the light of day.

      2. KT

        I feel as if you are labeling things “grain free” and “paleo” so much lately. This is clearly not a lifestyle you lead and that’s ok. You were a boon to me when I first realized how sensitive I was to wheat. It’s just so confusing, this weird switch and it feels uncomfortable and inauthentic.

        1. shauna

          I’m sorry that it feels uncomfortable to you, but it certainly isn’t inauthentic for me. So many of our readers have found they need to be grain-free that I started playing with grain-free baking, to help more folks. And as I wrote about in this piece, I’ve found a great deal of health in following a paleo-style template. http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/01/chris-kresser/ Writing a website like this is weaving a story, one that is always changing.

        2. KT

          You are clearly not following a paleo template in that you eat beans, dairy and potatoes. Many of us who do follow these guides absolutely do not agree with the whole resistant starch theory. Chris Kresser is one resource, but he is not the authoritarian guide when it comes to primal and paleo eating. What I meant by inauthentic is that it seems that you are using the terms in a SEO optimization way, and not because this is a lifestyle you truly embrace. It’s a huge turn-off and actually deceptive, in my book.

        3. shauna

          Well, to each her own. This isn’t a paleo website. Tagging something paleo friendly is merely an attempt to help the folks who come by here and need to be grain-free. Sorry it doesn’t work for you!

  9. gillian

    i’m irish, and i watched some of the superbowl live. [it’s a mystery to me but i do like the pageantry]. reading lots of food blogs and non food blogs from the states it does read to an outsider that to be ‘true’ to watching the superbowl you have to eat a narrowly prescribed list of foods… i find that funny. but that goes for anywhere, my mother in law had a canary when she found out i was cooking turkey and grape salad for her son our first christmas day together and not the full starchy gravy butter-fest that’s prescribed. she had a kitten when i told her it was his idea! i’m waffling but there’s a point in there somewhere.

    now, about the spuds, i did NOT know that if you let them cool their glycemic index changes, but that might explain why i don’t feel as bloaty as when i eat them just-cooked, huh. i love what you’re learning.

  10. Andy

    Thank you for sharing the little fact about potatoes! Now I can indulge in potatoes the smart way. And smoked salmon is the best!

  11. Erica

    Oh my goodness, look what you did, you kind, kind woman! You posted this recipe! And I just finished dinner but now my mouth is watering. When can I make these … Sunday? Maybe presidents day? Oh dear.

    Thank you so much!

  12. Vhari

    Wow! Did people take grumpy pills before they commented on this post, or what?!? I did not find your tone condescending, I love your posts and can take them with a grain of salt, like everything else I read, see, hear, etc in life, instead of penning a cranky knee-jerk reaction. :-) The salmon and potato cakes look delicious, no matter what, and I’m excited to know about cooled potatoes! I love this site, and have since I began reading it a few years ago, changes and all, because that’s what happens in life, whether you’re ready for it or not: change.

  13. Francoise

    I’m not paleo or grain-free or gluten-free but I love reading your posts — your writing is a pleasure and your cooking is delicious. Thank you x

  14. Jen

    Enjoyed this post and can relate to your feelings regarding football and food! Appreciate your honesty — that is where true connection happens, even if it’s over the internet!

  15. J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats

    Agreed, good food is good food whether its high brow, low brow, gluten free or whatever. It is perfectly alright to appreciate both a $2 dollar In-N-Out cheeseburger or a $70 dollar steak at Minetta Tavern.

  16. KS

    um wow people are really mean in the comments. Ignore them. I just want some of those salmon potato thingies, I’m seriously going grocery shopping for this soon.