COLUMN: September 6, 2018

A number of potatoes. I’m assuming three, but there might be a smaller spud behind the one at the front

THE most ridiculous accident I ever had, in a field as crowded as the Glastonbury Festival, involved a potato.

As ever, I came to grief because I was attempting to broaden my horizons. You would think I would have learned by now never to alter my life in any way, but the trouble with experience is that it merely allows me to recognise a mistake after I have made it again, rather than before, enabling me to prevent it.

“Ah, yes,” I think ruefully, tumbling down the stairs, “this is exactly what happened last time I tried roller skating to the bathroom.”

I had become mildly obsessed with making the perfect mashed potato and had eaten it a little too often. I was, at that point, a human croquette. But my mash was a little gluey, and I wanted it to be fluffy.

Then somebody – I can’t remember who, probably somebody on television with a massive kitchen and a book deal and a PA – suggested that boiling my spuds was the issue. If I wanted my mashed potato to be good enough to serve to humans it needed to be drier. I needed to bake my potatoes, taking water out of them rather than putting it in.

Fine, I thought. I’ll make one type of potato dinner to make another type of potato dinner and it’ll take twice as long and this had better be worth it, Nigel, or Nigella, or Nigellest, or whoever it was.

I baked the spuds for an hour, did some domestic tasks including mopping the bathroom floor, then took the red-hot boulders out of the oven and began the work of scooping them out with a spoon into a bowl, holding each potato with a tea towel because I am not an idiot. Ah, I thought, this potato is already very fluffy. I can see where this is going. As, indeed, I suspect, can you…

My phone rang, so I left the kitchen to answer it. Only three types of people ever ring my land line: people who have heard I have recently been in an accident (which is always true, but never with grounds for compensation), people pretending they work for BT and attempting to get my bank details and passwords, and my father.

It was one of the first category, and I strung the caller along for a while with the story of when I fell off my bike when I was nine, and after he had hung up in despair, I sauntered back to the kitchen and picked up the last potato. Without the tea towel. Because I am an idiot.

It was roughly five minutes out of the oven. If I’d cut a cross in it and shoved some butter and salt inside I might have been able to eat it, as long as I blew on it. In my hand, it felt like a glowing coal.

I flung it out of my hand with a yelp, it ricocheted off my fridge behind me, bounced between my legs, and ended up underneath my worktop, behind the bin.

I ran my poor fingers under the cold tap, shook off the water, and went to retrieve the potato, crawling under the worktop, and pushing out of the way the many bags for life I have accumulated. I have so many bags for life I can only hope that reincarnation is real.

Experience should have told me that the potato would still be quite hot, and also a little battered after its journey. And yet I still went to pick it up with my bare hand. My middle finger pushed right through the ruptured skin into the steaming hot, if admittedly extremely fluffy, flesh.

I yelped again and flung my head back, as one does in these circumstances, bashing the back of it fairly hard on the worktop above me.

I missed the opportunity for a yelp hat-trick by swearing fairly inventively and forcefully, and crawled out, to rub my head and to cool down my hand under the cold tap again.

But I did not immediately get the chance to do either of those things. I slipped on the small patch of water left on my tiled kitchen floor after the first attempt to cool down, fell backwards, hit the fridge, slid down the wall, and ended up sitting in my mop bucket, which I had not yet emptied.

I am happy to report that the mash was quite good.

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