Mashed potatoes are a great example of how changes inspired by professional chefs can alter our understanding of acceptable ways to cook and eat. In traditional Anglo-American cooking mashed potatoes were primarily used as an adjunct to add cheap calories and to visually complete a dish. They also served as a gustatory “foil” for other, more robust elements like roasts, braises and stews. They were prepared simply with butter, milk, salt and pepper in order that they would not compete too much with the main ingredient for attention.
Following what some food historians refer to as the Nouvelle Cuisine Revolution of the 1970’s and 80’s and the explosion of restaurants and chefs who began the to question and revise traditional dishes, it became acceptable to gussie-up mashed potatoes with everything from garlic to caviar, so that nowadays, many people –chefs included- can’t recall their traditional role in the meal.
Suffice it to say that I'm at a stage in the ontogeny of my gastronomic aesthetic where I'm reexamining the syntax of dish and menu construction. We'll see how long it I keep it up. (Can Viagra help with this?)