people thought he was charming

In ALL, FOOD LOVE by Stephanie Klein16 Comments

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"I grew up in a two-room apartment. My mother made us mashed potato sandwiches for lunch. And I rose above all that. People thought he was charming. When he stole my $15,000, it brought it all back. And he would have been on my back if I hadn’t taken care of him." –Closing moments of Law & Order (an episode titled "Purple Heart:" The investigations of seemingly unrelated murders of a cab driver and a hit man lead Briscoe and Logan to the cabbie’s wife.)

All I could say after watching the episode: Mashed potato sandwiches? Oh, quit your whining.

Comments

  1. i used to get made fun of in chile because i liked "pan con pure" (bread and mashed potatoes). whenever i put the mash on the fresh bread…i was referred to as "la gringa loca." love l&o!

  2. Ha! My immediate first thought was just as beth's – was there gravy involved because in that case….
    And now I am sitting at my desk, on what will be a 90 degree day, dreaming of Thanksgiving and my absolute favorite snack to eat once everyone has gone home – a stuffing sandwich.

  3. No offense, but I'm on a serious streak today, and I have to say I think people are missing the point entirely.

    Mashed potato sandwiches are a symbol of poverty. Potato spread is a poor person's substitute for cheese or cold cuts, and the scene? It is a really clever way to illustrate her drivers: the lines explain what led her to commit murder. Through an act of vengeance she effectively destroys herself while trying to protect herself from what she fears the most (hence the comment, "It brought it all back." What is "it all"? A life bordering abject poverty? The past in general?) This is a terrible example of "nothing to fear but fear itself." It destroys her. The man and the money are triggers, and she can't control the blind rage that ensues when her hard earned safety net comes under threat.

    This is a typical story in many, many women's lives around the globe. The real women of this world are just too busy feeding their kids to hire assassins. They know they would get caught, and who would take care of the children?

    The question is, would the character in this show have sounded more credible, if the writers had made her tell it like it is? "I ordered to have my husband killed, because the deception set off something in my limbic system, some terrible memories of growing up poor and struggling constantly. I worked hard to get to where I was. I trusted him, and when he stole everything I had, I don't know, I went into some sort of psychotic rage. I don't know exactly what happened. Why I chose to be with him in the first place… Well, he was a charming man. Everyone liked him. And no, he didn't resemble my dad."

    Umm, I don't think so either. I prefer the image of a woman talking about "mashed potato sandwiches" while she's being taken into police custody. Same story, a more eloquent delivery, and far fewer words (an enviable skill, that one…) It would be immoral to rationalize or justify murder, but there's a great deal of tragedy embedded in those few lines. It doesn't sound like whining to me. It's a meager attempt, but the character is trying to explain why she did what she did.

    If someone truly does not understand the undertones of the scene, then she's really lucky, or in the immortal words of Warren Buffett, a winner in the ovarian lottery. Many of this blog's readers are clearly in that blessed, select group of people. But the carb load was not just supposed to be seen as a bad nutritional choice. (By the way, before your post about Napa Valley, I had no idea that's where the vineyards are. I was amazed at the dozens of people who could give you such detailed suggestions of where to go for delicacies.)

    Based on your short post and the even shorter, baffled and baffling comments, it seems to me that people who would "get it" are probably people who've lived in poverty and escaped, yet rarely share their experience. I'm pretty sure that there are tons of people out there who may have Norwegian salmon on their bread now, but also know very well how mashed potato sandwiches taste (and I don't just mean dulce.) I applaud whoever wrote the Law and Order script, because it sounds like s/he knows what s/he's talking about.

    Finally, your post brought back some real life memories of food and whine from what's probably the other side of town, as regards to Law & Order. A former colleague was psyched about going out for a romantic dinner at a beautiful downtown restaurant, Candela or something, and returned to work in the morning complaining about his steak. He had requested medium well done and got medium. Horrors. Listening to several accounts of the same story to a number of different people, I sat there trying my hardest to act as if I empathized with his discontent or at least didn't find it deplorable (which I did), when all I really wanted to do was to tell him to fuck off and quit whining. If I could, I'd have that guy having mashed potato sandwiches for breakfast every single day for the rest of his life, but Mr Legacy Trustfund Entitlement III is probably enjoying life somewhere warm now, having made a killing (no pun intended) selling toilet paper (a.k.a. subprime credit insurance.) Such is life.

    FROM SK: I'd say that a monologue where it's all spelled out, where the axiom is expressed in words, is too "on the nose." It explains too much for a simple audience… which happens sometimes in TV. Hitting people over the head with things. I know, personally, with my writing, I believe I'm hitting the reader over the head with how obvious the message is, yet when I ask, for example, in reading Moose, how many readers picked up on the "American Pie" undertones of such a chapter–where I wove lyrics throughout the chapter, even naming one of the people "Valens" and mentioning a pink carnation, "she just smiled and turned away," "I couldn't take one more step," etc. to signify the death of a dream, the chapter where things turn around in Moose–I get a silence, then a, "wow, missed that," which is no one's "fault," it's just interpretation. But when I was writing it, I thought it was way too obvious, in an annoying way, and yet, most people don't even pick up on it.

  4. I must agree with Laffing Romp. Afterall, she is a stellar example of maturity…ya know coming to someone's blog she's never met and telling them to grow the "fluck" up.
    *snort*

    Some of you people are just fucked up in the head.

  5. What's all the fuss about? I know a man who refueses to eat pasta…of any kind…period. That's all he ate as he was growing up because his family home was lacking creativity as well as money.
    Me…I got a flash back to about 2nd grade hot school lunches…turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy day…we would ALL spackle the mashed potatoes and gravy on a slice of white bread and chow down. GOOOOOOOD STUFFFFFF

  6. i grew up poor.
    in some eyes, i'm still that way.
    and as a point of reference, mashed tater sandwiches were awesome when I was a kid…i/we didn't know better. we'd dab a little of my nona's gravy and we'd be good to go. even better…we'd take day old frozen pizza slices and put them on bread with mayo. YUM!

    lastly, if ever in the new haven area, go to Bar, and get the mashed potato chicken pizza, with extra garlic, and extra basil. omg.

    "the other k"… love your response.

  7. The other K:
    Wow! Thanks for that. Honestly I didn't quite get the post, although I did 'get' that it was something about growing up poor and having been threatened somehow. You explained it so eloquently and without being condescending. I realize I didn't 'get' it because I truly thought mashed potatoe sandwiches was something I chose to eat after Thanksgiving, with gravy, as some other posters stated. Also, stuffing and turkey… awesome. So I am one of the lucky ones, not trust fund lucky, not even inherit-money-from-rich-relative lucky. Just lucky in that mashed potatoe sandwiches, for me, were a choice. So I re-read the post and understood much more.

  8. The other K — I did not realize that the reference was symbolic of poverty either. I just thought about how much I love the potato in all of its forms and a sandwich of one sounds pretty good to me. Thanks for the point you made

  9. I'm a high school English teacher, and an MA student in English Literature, so I tend to read "too deeply" into many situations. I'm glad to hear from an author herself that she MEANT to embed such symbolism. I spend much of my time writing articles and essays about similar topics without even knowing if the author meant it at all.

    In fact, the Law and Order scene is an example of one of my favorite literary terms, synecdoche, which literally means using the part for the whole. I agree with many of the posters and Stephanie that the obvious makes me feel stupid . . . so the use of a "part for whole" illustration is the work of a beautiful writer. Overall, however, I love the discussion about real life issues through this blog. Keeps me coming back.

    Have a great week, everyone!

  10. i guess i didn't get it because mashed potato sandwiches, growing up on any starch because you can't afford fresh meat or produce, is obviously a sign of poverty, and i felt like SK was making fun of the charachter, saying like someone who has experienced poverty has nothing to whine about (or missed the reference entirely, and was all "yum, which i felt i could eat all th0se carbs"). the former, for all of her upper class upbringing, really didn't strike me as SK, and i sort of felt that with all of her reading and movie watching, she'd get the reference and know better than the latter. so i'm still all "wha?"

  11. I was all… she got to have what? Sounds like Thanksgiving… Turkey, mashed potato & stuffing sandwiches!

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