EXCERPT: 'The Recipe Club'

Dear Val, My mother and father just had another fight. We were at the dinner table. He was showing us the galleys of his new book. He looked up and noticed she was wearing a bracelet. He asked where she got it. You could see from the look on his face that he was already hurt. She shrugged and told him it was a gift from the "smashing new choreographer" of her show. No other explanation. As if that was enough. But it wasn't. He got really mad. He said with all her experience, it was probably her teaching him the moves.

I didn't like hearing that. I don't want to know about their business. But it's really hard not to listen when it's right in front of you. They started screaming. It was like I didn't exist. She threw his book on the floor. He threw the bowl of potatoes against the wall. Splat! Potatoes everywhere. I yelled for my parents to stop and that's when they realized I was still there. I ran into my room and slammed the door. I wanted to cry but the truth is there's no point crying about something that's never going to change.

An hour later my parents came into my room. They apologized. For two seconds I thought everything was better. But then my mom said she had a great idea. From now on I should call them both by their first names: Katherine instead of Mom, Isaac instead of Dad. My father turned purple in the face. He said that's just wrong. He says children should respect their parents and not talk to them like they're friends. It started all overagain. They argued through the night. This morning my father said if I call him Isaac he won't talk to me.

So he's Dad and she's Katherine.

You can call me by my new name: Sad. But at least something came out of this mess—a recipe for "smashing" smashed potatoes. But use a potato masher, not a wall.

Daughter of Katherine

"Smashing" Smashed Potatoes Serves 2 2 teaspoons salt, plus additional, if necessary 2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed 1 cup sour cream 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 /4 cup finely chopped chives Black pepper, to taste

1.Fill a medium pot with water; add 1 teaspoon salt and the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

2. Using a potato masher or fork, break up the potatoes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, sour cream, butter, chives, and pepper, and mash to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Serve immediately.

Hi Lilly,

Last night my mother was in the mood for Chinese food, so she sent me and Ben to get it. But she said we could eat in the restaurant first before bringing home the food. So just the two of us had dinner at Fong's Village. For a minute I pretended we were on a date when people looked at us sitting there.

We actually had fun! We rated each other's friends. When we got to you, he said, "Lilly? Oh, on a scale of one to ten, your friend Lilly is a definite thirty-four!" When I looked shocked, he gave one of his stupid laughs.

But I could see he meant it in a really nice way. He definitely goes ga-ga for you. Obviously!!! (And so do I, of course!!) I can't really answer your questions about how I act and feel about all that making out and feeling up stuff, except that even talking about it in a letter makes me uncomfortable. (Which I know you know, but you always seem to forget so I have to tell you again. Or do you just pretend to forget?)

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