Straight-Jacket Potatoes

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Straight-Jacket Potatoes

By Andrea Goto

Some people have never rolled sushi or flambéed Bombe Alaska. I’ve never baked a potato. I don’t know how.

“The answer is in the name,” my husband explains, “You bake the potato.”

I’m not falling for it. I know that there are at least five steps to even the simplest of cooking. There are always measurements, temperatures and timing issues to consider. Luckily, Paula provides me with the instructions that every other human seems to know by instinct: wash, pierce, wrap in foil and bake at 350-degrees for one hour. See, five steps.

Per usual, if I’m going to go to the effort of five steps, I might as well make something more show stopping than a starchy spud. Paula’s Jacket Potato recipe catches my eye. It contains my two favorite ingredients: bacon and alcohol.

I decide to try out the recipe when Mom and Dad invite me over for salmon dinner. As I pull the ingredients together, I ask Mom if she has any Brandy.

“Seriously, Andrea. It’s only 4 o’clock,” she says, handing me the bottle.

“For the recipe, Mom.” I take the Brandy from her and pour 1/4-cup into a measuring glass and a few splashes into a tumbler when her back is turned. Cooking in close proximity to my mother—the Queen de la Cuisine—necessitates drinking.

Earlier, I went to the grocery in search of green peppercorns. I have never heard of green peppercorns, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the difference is superficial. It’s like the run-of-the-mill M&M’s versus the seasonal Easter variety. The traditionally colored M’s taste the same as the cute pastels. No really. They do.

All the same, I opted for an overpriced jar of multi-colored peppercorns from which I painstakingly handpicked the little green ones like a monkey grooming a mate. The process added a half an hour to my potato prep. All the green peppercorns in the jar amounted to one tablespoon.

When Mom is ready to put the salmon on the grill, she scans the room and asks, “Where is my foil?” I thought that she was being super-helpful (a euphemism for micromanaging) and had laid out the foil for my potatoes.

“You used my special foil for your potatoes?!”

I don’t know what “special foil” is, but I’m assuming it’s the name-brand stuff that Mom hides in the pantry, leaving me with the cheap foil that tears like tissue paper. Mom explains that it’s heavy-duty foil, and it’ll probably prevent my potatoes from baking. When I ask my mom what’s the point of wrapping fish in something that prevents cooking, she just sighs and shakes her head. Mom and I share many similarities—a love of shopping, an obsession with cleaning and a penchant for making up words—but cooking divides us. Like culinary apartheid, barbed wire and all.

When I explain that I’m going to use the Brandy to ignite the sauce, Mom says she won’t allow it. She uses the opportunity to recall a number of unsuccessful cooking moments from my past. But before she gets to the undercooked pork loin incident (too soon), I’ve lit the match.


The gigantic flame barrels up into the oven hood where it remains like the Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity. Mom screams something unladylike, pulls the flaming sauté pan from the burner and runs around the kitchen in an attempt to extinguish the fire (if you understand the meaning of “fanning the flames,” you’ll know that she did not succeed).

I wrestle the pan from her hands and return it to the burner as the flame finally dies down. “It’s supposed to do that,” I say calmly. But to be honest, I’m a little shook up.

When the sauce is complete, I pour it over the unwrapped potatoes. Liquid floods the plate. As it turns out, the answer is in the name: a Jacket Potato requires a foil jacket. My butt-naked, thin-skinned potatoes hold the sauce like a silk diaper.

Mom frowned at her perfectly grilled salmon, swimming around the plate of cream sauce seeping from her potato.

“At least nobody got hurt this time,” I offer, thinking of the undercooked pork loin.

Andrea Goto lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia. Her kitchen experiments (known as “cooking” in more conventional homes) most often end with a mushroom cloud of smoke or a call to Poison Control. In spite of this, she’s deeply loved by her husband who prefers neon-colored cereals to all foods homemade, and her 3-year-old daughter who will eat almost anything, as long as you call it “chicken.” Need more Andrea? Follow her at

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Reader Comments:


I love, love, love your blog! Your style of writing is refreshing and reminds me of myself! (not meaning to pat myself on the back!)...can't wait to read them each month! Kudos!

By Becki on January 12, 2011

What a great bunch of writing!  I enjoyed this very much and I love your style.  Paula, thanks for sharing this talented writer. 

I grew up in a home with 2 fantastic cooks as well as grandparents that could cook well.  As I ventured into cooking I had more than my fair share of issues.  One thing that we had in common was something always managed to set off the smoke detector.  Our favorite saying for the longest time was it isn’t a holiday unless the smoke alarms sound!

By Renee McHale on December 02, 2010

I had to laugh when you said “It’s supposed to do that!”, too funny.

By Lena on September 15, 2010

We’ve had a saying in my house for years…“If it’s smoking, Mama’s cooking.”  Of course, I’m Mama. 
(Remembering the Cherries Jubilee incident the one time I tried making it…flambee does mean flaming!)

By Pamela Dickson on September 14, 2010

Jacket Potato Too funny, I will have to forward this to a friend that was sked if she was Paula Deen, she kind of looks like you!

By Elma on September 14, 2010

I can relate, to the “special” foil.  There was many an incident when the “special foil” was NOT to be touched.  Only on Sundays or Holidays by the grownups in the kitchen.  The regular foil would tear if you just looked at it (smile), but that was the only one we were allowed to use.  I loved the article and look forward to reading many many more!!! OH, HOW FUNNY WERE THE GOOD OLD DAYS!!!

By Mary G / NJ on September 14, 2010

Oh my! Just got off the floor from laughing! That was so good for the soul. Reminds me of when I belonged to the “gourmet club” of a womens group. We were given the recipe of what to cook and bring to the designated home. My husband and I were the babies of the group (20years younger).  I had to do chicken breasts with a brandy cream sauce.  After cooking the chicken in butter till golden and putting them in a baking pan, I carefully poured the brandy into the pan , then collapsed on the floor so afraid of the “lighting” step and sobbed. Gathering myself together, I stood, took a long match from the fireplace, lit it, picked up the pan, held it over the sink (I presumed a safe place) and put the flame to it. OMG! The poof was huge! The paper said to swirl it around to caramelize and get all the bits and then I remembered I had a valence at the top of the window! Remember what I said—had. No valence left, but I was thrilled with the gorgeous caramelized liquid I had made! Poured it over the chicken, made the cream sauce , added that and it was the best! To this day I stll make that and neither of my girls in their 30’s will attempt it. Guess it goes to my grave with me. That was when I was in my 30’s and I’m in my 60’s now! Thx for the smiles today.

By Lorrie perry on September 14, 2010

Aw…honey.  It sounds like you and I are a match made in culinary heaven.  I’d assume “jacket potatoes” refers to the type of event they should be served at…like a soiree kind of a potato.  Black jacket…bowtie…baked potato?  I wholeheartedly admire you attempting this dish with your mother nearby.  My sister is my family’s Betty Crocker and I feign complete ignorance when she asks me to help in the kitchen.  Much easier to sit, drink wine, and watch her work.  smile

By mindy@thesuburbanlife on September 14, 2010

I would like us to be friends and maybe you can help me with some ideas in what i should eat as i had have 3 heart attacks.Please.

By Triana Restivo on September 12, 2010

I can’t stand it! This is GREAT! For anyone who has EVER had something come out of the oven ready to be used in a religious ritual that requires burnt offerings, or has made a loaf of bread that morphed into a brick doorstop when you turned your back, or tried to make gravy from a packet and wound up with spackle… you’re REALLY gonna appreciate THIS! I may not be a drinker, but I’ll tell ya… many a pint of ben and jerry has consoled me after a kitchen “incident”, which translated, means that my major appliances were all abducted by aliens while I was trying to use them.

By Caryn on September 09, 2010

Thanks for the laughs. I used to burn almost everything, thats when my kids knew supper was ready! Now I’m somewhat of an accomplished cook but I’ve never flambayed anything.

By Loretta Peach on September 08, 2010

That was too funny, reminds me of my husband on the grill with a tequila sauce for

By Ila Waldstein on September 08, 2010

@Betty: You’re right. He didn’t eat this. :D

By The Culinary Coward on September 08, 2010

Mrs. Richmond: Thank you for your comment! I post a new Culinary Coward article on each month. Looking forward to having you as a regular reader!

By The Culinary Coward on September 08, 2010

YA Right,he’s really going 2 eat this! NOT !

By Betty Wheeler on September 08, 2010

This was hysterical; however, I noted in Paula’s recipe, she says NOTHING about wrapping it in foil!!!  Now I’m confused…

By Jude on September 08, 2010

Very funny! I’ll look forward to reading more from Andrea! smile

By Susan on September 08, 2010

This is the cutest piece of writing I’ve ever read.  You are brilliant.. and very talented with your words. smile  I enjoyed reading your post, and will add this to my daily reading.  Thanks for the laughs and insight.

By Mrs. Richmond on September 08, 2010

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