Keating Potatoes: A Food to Connect Us

Hannah Keating

My dad pulls into the driveway of my mom’s house to pick us all up. My three younger siblings and I jump in, rushing off to the grocery store. We are always in charge of last-minute groceries for dinner. Once we arrive there, I am the one, being the oldest, who runs in, retrieving anything needed to complete our Thanksgiving dinner.

I am almost done picking up all the necessary foods when I pass the vegetable section. The colorful array is similar to the one I will see on the table at my aunt’s house, considering we make almost every possible food you could imagine for Thanksgiving. Coming from a large family, we need large amounts and many varieties of food to fill everyone’s belly on this special occasion.

Rushing out of the store and to the family party, I feel my stomach start to yearn for our special family dish. I walk up my aunt’s porch, on the same day I do every year, holding three bags of groceries. My family swarms around my siblings and me. Although we never go more than a few weeks without a family gathering, they greet us as if they have not seen us in years. This particular time is special though; Thanksgiving is a celebration held with honor in the Keating household.

Even though my grandparents were both 100% Irish, they never lived in Ireland. They met in college while attending Notre Dame and eventually had a big family. My dad grew up with seven siblings, Pam, Paul, Diane, Mark, Kathy, Suzie, Karen, and Mike. While raising their children, my grandparents held up Irish Catholic traditions. On holidays, Irish food was always hauled out. Copious amounts of corned beef and cabbage lined the tables and countertops.

Ireland is known for having dishes with potatoes in them so we always had them, too. All of my dad’s siblings were picky eaters, so on holidays my grandma made something for everyone so they could enjoy the meal.

However, everyone agreed on one dish, a specialty of the family: Keating potatoes. It was my grandma’s own recipe, which we still use today. She always started with six of the best red potatoes she could find, and then grated them slowly. The smell of melting butter would trigger the sweet aromas of the recipe’s ingredients. She would grate two cups of cheddar cheese before adding in the good stuff, one whole carton of sour cream. After tossing everything in, she added green onions, salt, and pepper and mixed it all together. My grandma baked the potatoes in the oven for 45 minutes, filling the air with the warm smell of our family’s dish. Excitement would fill the hearts of my father and his siblings as the aromas swept the room. Soon, the food producing that smell would fill their bellies. Family members would remind one another that Keating potatoes should not be consumed often. No arteries in the world could handle such a food regularly. Now, despite my never having met my grandmother, I still enjoy the tradition she passed down to her daughters. It’s her dish that brings us all together.

Back at the Keating household, I am on work crew. Since it is Thanksgiving, I am in a good mood and do not mind putting in a little extra work. I start stirring, setting up, and baking whatever my aunts tell me to while they do the real cooking. Only they prepare the potatoes on special holidays for the whole family. Today, we make double batches. We rotate as to who takes the extras home, but there are never any Keating potatoes to spare. After asking my aunts, I now know my grandmother’s secret recipe. The little ones still do not know what makes them special, but one day they will.

We gather around the kitchen island to say grace together. God blesses me immensely. I am grateful to spend time with my family and share such a delicious meal this year. As the prayer wraps up, I chime in, remembering the last line: “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, whoever eats the fastest gets the most!” My grandpa passed down this saying, and we recite it now right before the family of 50+ swarms the food table. Grabbing double scoops of Keating potatoes and sides of turkey, my cousins and I run to our favorite seats in the house.

Sitting around the former kid’s table, we enjoy a bite of our family’s dish. The smell of green onions launches off our plates and dances up to warm our lungs. I finish all of my food in under 15 minutes flat, a new record. Nothing brings my family closer together than enjoying our favorite dish. Food brightens the mood. Everyone smiles and laughs on Thanksgiving. Adults drink a little too much, leading the kids who are old enough to take their place as designated drivers.

Before walking out of my aunt’s house, I make a round trip to each floor, saying goodbye to every family member. I never leave anyone out. With leftovers warming my hands, I close the door, ending another successful holiday. Food bonds us like no other, and the Keating potatoes keep tradition close to our hearts.
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Keating Potatoes
6 med. red potatoes—grate on largest cut.
Slowly melt ¼ c. butter and 2 c. shredded cheese.
Add 2 c. sour cream, 1/3 c. chopped green onion, 1 t salt & ½ t. pepper.
Toss with grated potatoes. Place in greased warm baking dish. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

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