Music and Lyrics: Perfect Mashed Potatoes Recipe

Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Marc Lawrence
Starring: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Haley Bennett, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston
(PG-13, 96 min.)

"Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Did unimpressed critics turn you away from this delightful romantic comedy, one that celebrates the curative power of love and laughter? Well, it’s time to remedy that.

Somehow in this jaded age, nihilism is the key to critical acclaim, be it sugar coated (Little Miss Sunshine), tedious (The Good Shepherd), or intercontinental (Babel). How inappropriate to have film fare that refuses to take itself seriously, that actually reassures us of some of the more endearing features of humanity.

And speaking of endearing features of humanity, I might as well confess right now that I am a diehard fan of the self-effacing Hugh Grant, even venturing to see his comic sensibilities reminiscent of the that other British Grant - Cary that is. And he is in fine form here, playing Alex Fletcher, an over the hill 80’s pop star reduced to gigs at High School Reunions, family amusement parks, with the occasional plum at Knott’s Berry Farm. Grant seems to enjoy the pop persona down to each and every pelvic thrust, especially so with his current cadre of “mature audiences,” who scream with as much exuberance as they did twenty years earlier. And even if he does have to hobble off stage after an especially enthusiastic performance, at least he has not had a hip replacement, like so many of his fellows.

Alex Fletcher has settled comfortably into complacent mediocrity, ready to accept a televised appearance on “Battle of the 80’s Has Beens,” until he finds out that it actually does involve a physical battle, with only the victor getting some airtime for his worn out pipes. But even those on the lower rungs of the food chain have their competition, as Alex’s ever-loyal manager Chris (Brad Garrett from Everybody Loves Raymond) informs him of several tour cancellations. That is why he jumps at the chance to compose a new song for the current teen diva, Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), even though he has not written anything for ten years and she wants it in less than three day’s time.

And that’s where the engaging plant lady comes in. Well, actually Sophie’s the substitute plant lady, but ditsy as she seems, the girl has a knack for rhyme. Sophie (Drew Barrymore), it turns out, is a kind of has-been herself, a once aspiring writer who has let a badly turned out love affair and its subsequent barbed rehash in her paramour professor’s latest best seller extinguish all of her literary ambitions. (Well, she does write the occasional ditty for the family’s Weight Loss Centers, which some might argue is worse than not writing at all.)

So much of the fun of Music and Lyrics is watching romance bloom as the two hunker next to Alex’s beautiful grand piano trying to put words and music together, Sophie’s lyrics to Alex’s graceful tinkling of the ivories. Much of the film is actually devoted to the give and take collaboration, with Sophie protesting that lyrics are the grist of a song, while Alex thinks it’s the tune that counts. Of course, just as Jerry McGuire took a whole movie to learn that “You complete me,” Alex and Sophie take awhile to learn music and lyrics complement each other, just as man does woman. And there is real chemistry between the two, most of the sparks taking the shape of soft looks and soulful lyrics that woo Cyrano de Bergerac style. What a break from the cheap vulgarity and witless sexual double ententes that have so cheapened the genre.

Filling out the rest is a wonderful parody of the pop music scene, from the faux 80’s tract that frames the feature, all long British bangs, and skintight pants promenading across the screen, to current Diva Cora’s fusion of Far Eastern asceticism and flaunting Western sensuality, with orange shirted Buddhist priests fawning upon her every bump and grind. Of course, given the recent antics of present day divas, the line between reality and parody is swiftly eroding. 

A final point brought to mind and underscored as the scantily clad Cora emerges from a huge statue of Buddha on stage is the producer’s reliance upon the forbearance and good humor of the true practitioners of a religion that has surely been hijacked by Hollywood.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

While Sophie has hardly heard of Alex’s past glories as an eighties teen idol, her older sister Rhonda is a true fan, reduced to adolescent screams as she shoves her way to the front row at one of Alex’s retro performances. It is indeed an honor when he comes as Sophie’s guest to her house for dinner.

Ronda makes her signature mashed potatoes, not content until she has scooped a minor mountain of them on Alex’s plate. That he does his best to finish them seals his status as an idol. It also does much to recommend him as a suitable beau for Sophie.

I have searched far and wide to find a recipe suitable for Alex. This one for Perfect Mashed Potatoes is as natural and unassuming as he is. Prepare them for your loved ones, but be moderate rather than mountainous in your portions. And I would not use polishing them off as the only requisite to establish high character in potential beaus.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

There has been much written on the best way to make mashed potatoes - how long you cook them, with peel or without, reserving some of the cooking liquid, etc. etc. I have discovered that the real trick to creamy, buttery, heavenly potatoes is to use Yukon Gold potatoes instead of Russets. That's really all there is to it (along with butter, cream, salt and pepper). Just start with the type of potato that tastes better and mashes up better. According to the Food Network, starchy potatoes, like russets, have high starch and low water. Starchy potatoes are great for baking and French fries, and good as mashed potatoes. When cooked in water, they disintegrate; when cooked by dry heat, they become crumbly and fluffy.

All-purpose, or chef's potatoes, like Yukon Golds, have medium starch and medium water. All-purpose potatoes are great in stews, soups, mashed potatoes, or for roasting. When cooked, they are at once moist and fluffy: they keep most of their shape in soups and don't dry out when baked. 

Here's our recipe for perfect Yukon Gold mashed potatoes:

  • 1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered length-wise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • Salt and Pepper

A potato masher

  1. Put potatoes into a saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add water until potatoes are covered. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, or until done - a fork can easily be poked through them.
  2. Warm cream and melt butter, together, either in microwave or in a pan on the stove. Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes into a bowl. Add cream and melted butter. Use potato masher to mash potatoes until well mashed. Use a strong spoon to beat further, adding milk to achieve the consistency you desire. (Do not over-beat or your potatoes will get gluey.) Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Recipe Source: Simply Recipes