Dough Potatoes

My father was seventeen years old when the stock market crashed in October of 1929.  He told me that Grandpa Rang lost all the money he had saved from twenty years of farming except for the last couple of milk checks that he had deposited in a bank that survived the collapse.  With cows and chickens and a big garden, the family had enough to eat, but clothes, hardware and other “store-bought” things were precious.

Women and girls mended clothing, darned socks, and turned flour sacks into dish towels, pillow cases, dresses and curtains–often embroidered with flowers or geometric patterns.  Men and boys made tools, repaired equipment and salvaged anything they could.  My father and mother passed on those frugal ways to their offspring.

For instance, the second carpentry job I learned was how to straighten nails.  The first was how to bend them, but that was self-taught.  Today I still find myself reusing nails and saving wood scraps.  

Before I left home for college, Mom taught me how to sew on buttons and stitch up a seam, and she gave me a patching kit with some needles and spools of thread.  This spring I actually sewed on a button when I was spending a few days by myself at the cabin.  It is still on my fishing pants, which seem to be getting smaller.

People didn’t waste food either.  Leftovers were saved and either warmed up and served again or used as ingredients in another dish.  Here is an example.  We called it “dough potatoes.”  It’s not fancy–just leftover potatoes and onions fried in a thin batter of eggs, flour and milk–but made with a baked potato and served with ketchup, it is a good example of northern European comfort food.

Dad sometimes made this simple dish when Mom was not home to cook dinner.  My sister Barb thinks that he learned the recipe from his mother, so it might have originated in Germany.  If so, I may have eaten it at Grandma and Grandpa’s the year I lunched with them when we had lost our good cook at Blair School.

Anyway, here is how to make Dough Potatoes


1 leftover baked potato (1 to 1 1/2 cups when sliced)
1/4 cup onion
3 T flour
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 scant tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 T butter, vegetable oil or bacon grease


Peel the potato, cut it lengthwise into quarters and slice 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  Chop the onion medium fine.  Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the potato and onion until they begin to brown.

While the vegetables are frying, beat the eggs until lemon yellow.  Add the milk, flour, salt and pepper and mix well until you have a thin batter.  Pour the batter over the potatoes and onions and stir continuously until the batter begins to set.  Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and cook until done, about 3 minutes.

Dough potatoes are rather bland, so make sure that ketchup, salt and pepper are on the table.

NOTES:  You can use leftover boiled potatoes, but baked potatoes give a better flavor, at least to our tastes.   Once the eggs are nearly done, you can use a spatula to turn them over so the bottom does not get too brown.

Garlic Toast

My mother and father grew up in the Great Depression.  From it they learned not to waste anything.  Dad reused lumber and other building materials, repaired tools and saved everything he thought he might be able to use sometime.  Mom turned ham and turkey bones into soup stock, saved old bread for bread pudding, made sandwiches with leftover roast and served warmed over vegetables if we had not eaten them the day before.

She also darned socks and patched our clothes, which then became “work” or “play” clothes.  However, there were exceptions to this rule.  I recall a painful incident involving a brand new pair of khaki pants that I thought made me look a little bit like a soldier.

I was 12 or 13, and I had worn the pants once or twice the first week of school.  As the school bus rolled over the Phipps Bridge I could see trout rising in the still water upstream.  I got off the bus, ran inside, told Mom that the trout were rising and I was going fishing before supper.

“Change your clothes,” she said as I headed for the door.

“I’m just going for a little while,” I answered.

I don’t remember if I caught any trout, but I do remember very clearly the vicious strand of barbed wire that put a three-cornered tear in my pants just below the knee.  I also remember the lecture and the fact that I had to wear patched pants to school.

Jerri has a similar memory involving a new wool skirt and a three-cornered tear that occurred when she was playing in an old farm wagon with a friend after school.  She  was seven or eight at the time but still recalls her mother’s exact words when she saw the tear:  “That’s the worst kind.”

Lesson learned.  She has used the line with me a few times when I have come home after an encounter with a fence or protruding nail.

When it comes to leftover foods, sometimes it just makes sense to throw out that last spoon of sauce or three green beans with the trash or compost, but it is difficult for people like us brought up to save bent nails and worn out towels.  Once in a while Jerri follows her grandmother’s approach:  “I just put it in the refrigerator until it spoils. Then it’s easier to throw it out.”

Have you ever hidden leftover hot dog or hamburger buns in the freezer until the only thing to do was to feed them to the birds?  I still do it at times, but here is a delicious and easy way to solve the problem of what to do with those extra buns.


Leftover hot dog or hamburger buns
Olive oil
Some garlic cloves
Dried crushed basil and oregano
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

The amount of olive oil and number of garlic cloves will depend on how many buns you have left over.  For 8 buns you will need four to five tablespoons olive oil and four or five garlic cloves.   Peel and mince the garlic cloves. Cover the garlic with the olive oil in a microwavable dish.  Add 1 teaspoon each of basil and oregano along with 1/4 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper.  Mix well and microwave until steaming.

Slice the hot dog buns into rounds about 1/2 inch thick.  If you have hamburger buns, cut each half into six equal pieces.  Brush each piece with the seasoned olive oil on one side and put in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake until lightly browned, about 8 or 10 minutes.  Cool and serve with a soft spreadable cheese as an appetizer.

NOTES:  Leftover French bread works well too.  You can store these toasts for at least two weeks if you dry them overnight before sealing them in a storage bag.  They have never lasted longer than two week in our home, so I can’t report on long term storage.  If you need extra olive oil, you can warm more with the garlic and spices.