Hash browns give me anxiety. They do a good turn on the catwalk—it’s simple! it’s salt of the earth!—but they’re tame and wayward in equal measure, like a lover who comes by unannounced but leaves again before you wake up. I used to think I wanted to be that kind of lover, but most bus lines I’ve taken in my life have also give me anxiety.
So does sleeping over at people’s places. Do I make up a thing I have to do tomorrow so I don’t linger? Are they gonna just give me the sign? We could maybe mutually decide on a time I leave but she sleeps in a lot longer than I think she realizes—THE ONE THING GOING IN HASH BROWNS’ FAVOR IS THAT IT’S PART OF A LONG ENOUGH LIST OF THINGS THAT MAKE ME ANXIOUS THAT I CAN TAKE MEDICATION FOR IT.
I’m in the honeymoon stage of Ativan, where the experience of not wanting to pull my still-beating heart out of my chest and step on it to avoid conversations with people is a novel and refreshing experience. It will become routine. I’ll grow bored, maybe even resentful of it. But I have to accept this with grace, because wanting the treatment of mental illness to be exciting and “a good story” is dead white dude author bullshit.
But right now it’s fantastic. I float. I feel like my brain is being massaged from inside my skull. On my way to Lauren’s house to make hash browns and play with her cat, I stopped for coffee and made small talk. A cashier at Taste of Denmark wants to eat a cake that says “Cake by the Ocean” while by the ocean. It’s “her dream”. That’s beautiful. She could accomplish that today. She works at a cake shop in a coastal town. But she’s dragging it out. An emotional tease and denial. You should follow any dream that doesn’t end with you needing to call 911 but unable to speak and all the buttons have weird runes and a poisonous cloud is quoting the bible.
So we’re going to need 1 POTATO, 1/2 YELLOW ONION, FAKE CHEESE, and COOKING OIL.
Most people I know prefer bigger holes in their grater, but I liked using this smaller grater I found at Lauren’s. Tiny little potato noodles. It’s like making imitation spaghetti squash. Potatoes are like eggs, simple and versatile foods that everyone’s got a different preference for. It’s what makes them frustrating but also wonderful. But I’m not frustrated. This is good. Tiny potato noodles. I was born by an ocean and live by an ocean and they are two different oceans. Life is okay.
Soak them little potato noodles in a bowl or tupperware for a few minutes. This leeches the starch out of them and keeps them from turning that unappetizing grey brown. I learned this from Pioneer Woman.
Holocaust denier Fred Leuchter, Jr. claims that while he was in Poland to visit the concentration camps, he was fed starch broth by his hosts. He tells the story as a show of how poor and backwards the Polish were—it never occurs to this breed of righteous asshole that people have identified and are regarding him as such.
Chop up some onions while you let the potatoes soak.
Drain the potatoes and pat down with paper towels, tender but firm. They’re only little potato snakes. Use up as many paper towels as you can stand to throw away in one sitting and then fluff the potatoes with a fork. Look at that. That’s real nice. It’s like an inviting autumn meadow—”come lie in me before we are plucked asunder by winter” it seems to say.
Oil up that frying pan. Grab a handful of potatoes and chopped onions, make it into a precious little patty, and lay into the pan. Do this until you’ve filled the whole pan up with hash browns. Like a giant misguided attempt at making a paleo pancake. Let it sizzle for a while.
Throw some salt, pepper, and paprika on the wet side as it browns on the bottom. Usually, by this point I’ve already flipped the hash brown 5 times and freaked out that it wouldn’t cook right and people would know I’m not really good at food. But you just gotta wait. Accept the love and support that your friend Maillard’s is trying to give you. You deserve it. Sip some more coffee. Pet a cat. Ideally, the cat you’ve been asked to catsit, but compassionate non-exclusivity is a great way to life many levels of your life.
But not all cats want to be pet. Some have been strays for a long time, or fled abusive homes, so all they know is that humans are to be feared. Don’t exacerbate this by trying to pet a cat who is squeamish around you. Leave out some food or water for it. Don’t get all up in it’s shit. Show it care and concern with no expectation of getting it back. Even if it doesn’t reciprocate your affections, you’ve shown not all humans are to be feared, and maybe someone else down the line will get close enough to this cat to experience affection from it.
Now. Do that, but with people. WHOA. WHOA, MAN. MAKES YOU THINK.
Flip your shit. Awww yeah, nice and brown and black and scratchy on the top. You can see there’s still quite a bit of moisture in this hash, but by the time you’re done it’s going to be crunchier than a music festival granola bar. Some people prefer a more pancake texture from hash browns. They mix eggs and flour with the potatoes to get a firmer shape and texture. They’re good people. You’re good people. We took vegetables that grew in the dirt and made them into a good way to start our day with cats we’re asked to love for a specified period of time.
If you’ve got some soy cheese, like a bag of shredded Daiya, wait until near the end, when both sides are crispy, to throw them on—to make sure it melts quick, I like to put a lid over the pan to melt it a bit, but I gotta wait til near the end to do that or else I’m just recycling steam like some scruffy moisture farmer from Tattoine.
When I was young my father wanted me to be a fighter pilot. But I sucked at the simulations. I never knew when to wait for the target to come to me, and I get myself killed because I try to shoot at every target and exhaust myself and my ammo and I am just pulling your leg, I’m talking about the Star Wars arcade game. The idea of having to cut my hair and be in bed at a certain time and always having to be emotionaly available to do push-ups or be called a bunch of homophobic slurs gave me like supersize levels of anxiety, and I purposely failed every aptitude test he put my way.
When the soy cheese is done melting it’ll look kind of like a train map.
Awww, yeah. Look at that. A crispy, crunchy disc of hash brown. If I wasn’t respecting my friend Lauren’s vegan kitchen, I’d pop a couple fried eggs on top. I’d say this is diner quality, as long as it’s a diner run by an anxious queer woman who occasionally dreams of writing her own series of kaiju films. No CGI; giant suits only.
This might be the best hash brown I’ve ever made for myself—I set off a lot of smoke alarms in my earlier days of making hash browns, and this is the most relaxed and content I’ve ever been while cooking a hash brown. But this is not a place I can visit more than once. I’m talking about the state of peace; I have keys to Lauren’s place. Eventually, having less all-entangling anxiety will be my new normal. If I work at it. And keep up my treatment. In any case, this serenity will be less novel, and I need to accept that these first highs can not be replicated.
But I can probably make these hash browns again. And next time, I won’t have to sit through a dude loudly arguing with the cashier at the bakery on how prosthetic limbs and sex changes challenge God’s plan for our bodies.
And this is why transphobia is a societal problem and not just “a few bad apples”, because typically a hatred for our existence can be found co-mingled into a hatred for the existence of others, and you know this dude’s been thrown out of like at least three hospital visitor centers and we need to have a more inclusive approach to critiquing the ways people hate bodies they perceive to be non-normative.
Okay I guess the Ativan is wearing off, I can pop open this Tangerine IPA.
I recognize sriracha has featured in a large number of my recipes thus far. In the Bay Area, it’s in in almost everyone’s pantry, no matter their diet or economic class. You also get it in sauce packets sometimes when you get Chinese or Thai food delivered to your place. It’s like the hot sauce equivalent of bacon or coffee.
I like it because it always hurts a little, no matter how “good” I get at eating strange hot sauces. Sriracha keeps me humble. And when I stray and eat something with ghost pepper in it and disappear for a few days in a sweaty haze, sriracha is always there to slap me until I come to, like a Dominatrix moonlighting as an MMA cornerperson.
Cut me, Ma’am.
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I like my old phone.
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Author: Jetta Rae
Founder of Fry Havoc. Can be found on twitter at @jetta_rae