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Christian Gehman
Prizewinning novelist seeks teaching job
Prizewinning novelist seeks teaching job


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Perhaps if enough people wonder why Elaine Shaffer's recordings of Bach's flute sonatas are not available on CD, Sony might -- at last -- re-issue them on CD.  Just now, they are available only on (second hand) vinyl at

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It has been truly a wonderful Woodstock Library. I'm proud to have a book on the shelves -- (if I still do) -- and I'd be happy to send along an electronic copy of beloved Gravely that I retyped into Word a few years ago.  Libraries -- and books! -- are even more important now than they used to be, because even though the Internet has solved so many problems of "access to tools," it has not taken the place of a library.  I miss the Woodstock Library, and all of its librarians, including you, DJ, Ellen Roberts and my mother Susan Bair, the tall brunette on the right in the picture.

Llewellyn Fauls gave me this recipe.

These are THE BEST mashed potatoes I ever ate—bar none, hands down, the nec plus ultra of the mashed potato tribe. They are better than any package mix you could possibly find. They are also the easiest mashed potatoes to prepare: because you can make them ahead. The real beauty of the recipe is that they can be made the night before, the day before, or up to several days ahead. Far from losing anything by sitting in the refrigerator, I actually think they get better.

The beauty of Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes is two-fold: first, they are the best mashed potatoes you will ever eat. But even more beautiful, from the chef’s point of view: you can make them up to several days ahead. Thus, you won’t need to dragoon any of your guests into mashing potatoes at the last minute just as the turkey or the roast finally comes out of the oven. And Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes will remain at the peak of flavor for days. That means even the leftovers are wonderful.
They will remain terrific literally, until you have eaten the last toothsome morsel.
Make Ahead Mashed potatoes will need some oven space when you reheat them. However, if the serving dish pan you use is small enough they can be microwaved. A souffle dish works fine and will look pretty on the sideboard.

Brush the surface with melted butter just before you put them in the oven. And sprinkle them with Sweet Hungarian Paprika for the traditional color.

– Christian Gehman

(Serves 10)

14 potatoes, about 5 pounds
1/2 tbsp. salt
spring water
1 or 2 sticks butter
1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese
1 cup milk, half and half or potato water

Peel the potatoes. Russet baking potatoes are perfect because they mash up so fluffy. Yellow Finns need slightly more work but are a bit tastier. Red Bliss, however, are primarily for boiling.
Cut off any any bad spots and remove the eyes.
Put them in a large pan. Cover them with cold water. Add a half tablespoon of salt or none at all – whatever amount seems to suit you these days. Bring the potatoes slowly to the boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and let them simmer eight to ten minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let them stand twenty minutes or so or until a fork can pierce through them easily. If they're not quite done at twenty minutes, raise the heat back to a very slow simmer and give them ten more minutes.
Pour off the potato water, reserving most of it for other uses – makes a good base for vegetable soup or, of course, for potato soup. Save out at least a cup of potato water for the next step.
To the potatoes in their original pan, add at least one stick of butter (not margarine or spread) and an eight ounce package of cream cheese. It is possible to use neuchatel cheese for its lower fat content. But why use low fat cheese when you are adding butter and milk? Add one cup of milk or potato water.
I think potato water tastes better and is lighter than milk, so I would vote for using potato water and cream cheese rather than milk and neuchatel cheese.
Adjust the salt as you go along.
When the butter and cream cheese and potatoes have been thoroughly combined to make the world’s most ambrosial mashed potatoes, put the mixture into a large flat Pyrex baking dish slightly less than three inches deep. using a spatula to smooth out the surface. After letting them cool down for an hour or so, cover them carefully and then put them in the refrigerator.
To serve, let them warm up to room temperature for an hour or two, brush the surface with melted butter, then bake them at 350 degrees for half an hour, or until they are hot all the way through in the middle of the pan.
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes can rest in your refrigerator very happily for one, two or three days before you serve them. Experiments with the leftovers indicate they are good up to five days after the first preparation, so you could probably leave them for a week if your refrigerator was cold enough. Fortunately, however, it is unlikely that Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes will ever last that long, because they are just as good reheated as when first prepared.
That’s the magic.
I know that is hard to believe. But it’s true.

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A mermaid in Norfolk .... saw a terrific Renoir at the Chrysler Museum ...

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President Sullivan was reinstated! 

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