I’m a member of a great book club. The reason we’re great? Not only is the club made up of great women of varying ages and states of life (well, married and single. We don’t have nuns in the book club at the moment), but we actually discuss the book we’ve agreed to read. I know, it’s shocking.
We don’t meet every month, just whenever someone mentions, “Hey, didn’t we agree to read a book a few months ago? Should we actually get around to reading it and meet at my house in three weeks for dinner?”
That’s how we roll.
Most recently we agreed to read the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. It’s not a book I would have picked off the shelf, but my sister and mom both recommended it. I knew that one of my friends in book club had read it a few years earlier in another book club, so I threw it out as a suggestion. It’s not like the other books we had read, but I thought we could use something a little more light-hearted. …If a story about an island occupied by Nazis is light-hearted. (That shows what kind of books we’ve been reading.)
It was a fantastic read, despite the recommendation from the Eat, Pray, Love lady on the cover of it. Don’t judge a book by the recommendation on its cover.
This post isn’t about the book, though.
We always meet for dinner, and occasionally the food has something to do with what we read. This time it was easy – the people in this book gathered around food just like we do.
They just didn’t have very good food. It was World War II, after all. So keep that in mind.
Linda had planned to have pork as the main dish, since their Literary Society actually began after eating a pig. (You have to read the book.) As for the title… well, we had to have Potato Peel Pie, right?
I volunteered, always up for a challenge. As I looked for recipes, it became clear that it’s not a dish you want to eat during peacetime. The website for the book basically said, “Don’t make this. It was wartime. They were desperate.”
Did that stop me? It probably should have, but it didn’t.
I found an updated recipe that basically consisted of a pie crust made with potato peels, filled with mashed potatoes. I figured I could throw in some scallions and garlic and bacon into the mashed potatoes and it would be fine.
Three hours before book club, I went back to find the recipe and found this intriguing video. It was a different updated version of the potato peel pie – straight from modern day Guernsey.
Maybe it was the British accent that got me. I decided to take a risk and make this version. Did it bother me that the recipe wasn’t written anywhere? That it was vague in some parts and in metric in others? Nah.
I headed to Target to buy a mandolin. I have the luxury of having a kitchen with lots of storage space. So why not fill it with fun gadgets? As a side note – where has the mandolin been all my life? I knew I always wanted to learn to play one. But as a cooking instrument? Hello! They’re wonderful.
I made the topping without trouble — mandolining potatoes like nobody’s business. Then I got to work creating the filling.
I tried to grate the potato like the video instructed, but I think I needed a bigger grater. And you don’t realize how watery potatoes are until you start to grate them. Grating the onion was an even bigger mess. So I started to julienne them both instead.
Then I had to tackle the measurement issue. It hadn’t told me how many potatoes to grate, so I just guessed. Then it had given me the flour measurement in grams. What is 500 grams of flour? One website said 2 cups. Most websites said 4. In the YouTube video, he definitely did not have four cups in his bowl. So I went with two.
I threw in some scallions and some bacon, crossed my fingers, and stuck the thing in the oven. I was running out of time, so I flipped my oven to “convection bake” and hoped for the best.
How was I supposed to know it was ready? Looking back, I probably over cooked it– but it’s hard to tell, when you don’t know what the thing is supposed to look like or taste like.
Everyone was very supportive of the adventure, and they oohed and ahhed properly when I flipped the pan over and unveiled my handiwork. But I’m sure we were all thankful that there were plenty of other things to eat.
What it lacked in flavor, it made up for in looks.
It wasn’t bad… it just kind of was. It was just there. Dense. Bready. Potato-y. There. Darcy suggested that it would pair well with soup, and I think it would. maybe with soup poured all over the top of it.
And if you were starving during the War, it would probably be a delicacy.
I think Linda said it best when she casually declared, “The bacon was a good idea.”