[Editor’s Note: In honor of National Potato Day, we’re republishing this gem from our Paste Vault—enjoy!]
Since I’m working my way up to the nacho hat, it’s time to tackle a more sculptural dish. None of this delicious cupcake crap. Let’s dig into some weird food that wouldn’t otherwise exist outside of a Simpsons episode.
And while The Simpsons is full of wonderfully bizarre food, for this month’s edition we’re focusing on the Season Six gem, “Homie the Clown.” Krusty the Clown’s still got his on-screen magic, but his spending habits are out of control. He’s lighting cigarettes using a hundred dollar bill, the first appearance of Superman, and a string of pearls. He’s also been making stupid bets with the mafia, and owes them cash. His financial advisor pleads with him to open a clown college to offset his expenses, and he reluctantly agrees. Cut to Homer eagerly taking in all of the new roadside billboards, causing mayhem and car accidents in his wake. He buys every product that he sees, but is determined not to let the clown college billboard get to him.
Turns out, he can’t get it out of his head, and sees clowns and hears circus music everywhere (“Clowns are funny.”). He even makes his mound of mashed potatoes into a circus tent, Close Encounters of the Third Kind-style (more on that later). He surprises his family by declaring that he’s going to clown college, and starts school seemingly the next day. At clown college, Krusty teaches his students about wardrobe (“Those are supposed to be baggy pants!”), classic scenarios, and tricks like the tiny bicycle loop-de-loop. Homer tries and tries to complete the trick, but ends up pantless or destroying the track. He manages to graduate anyway, and starts doing promo visits and birthday parties as Krusty. He even presents at the Ace Awards, and has a nice awkward moment with Dick Cavett himself.
Homer starts to hate being a clown but then he realizes the perks of posing as Krusty. He gets out of a parking ticket and gets free stuff, like some really nice house paint. This backfires when the real Krusty bets against the Harlem Globetrotters (“I thought the Generals were due!”) and the mafia comes to collect. They mistake Homer for Krusty, and take him back to their headquarters. The old Don is willing to let him live if he’ll do the tiny bicycle trick, which Homer of course screws up. Krusty accidentally shows up in the nick of time, and they are forced to ride through the loop-de-loop together. They manage to pull it off in spectacular fashion, and delight the “Italian stereotype.” Krusty still has to pay up, but turns out it’s just $48.
Back to those Circus Tent Mashed Potatoes. I don’t know about you, but ever since I saw Close Encounters (which came out 40 years ago!), I’ve wanted to make a mashed potato sculpture. It just seems like the perfect medium. To create your own mashed potato circus tent, you’ll need a couple of boxes of instant potatoes. Regular potatoes might work, but they’re fussier. Instant potato flakes are easy to get to the right consistency and are stiff and lump-free. Mmm… lump-free. They also majorly remind me of school lunch.
I mixed mine up with very hot water, adding enough to make them smooth but still stiff. You want a fluffy Play-Dough kind of texture. Let the mixture cool and then mound it up on a plate and go to town. I found it easiest to use my (freshly washed) hands, and would dip my fingers in warm water when making the final touches to smooth everything out. I cheated a bit with the flag on top, covering a little paper flag I made using a toothpick with mashed potatoes. I’m not sure under what context you’d serve this, but you should serve it. Bar mitzvah, wake, clown party? Serve it.
Circus Tent Mashed Potatoes
Serves a gaggle of clowns
2 (13.75-ounce) boxes of instant mashed potato flakes
Add the mashed potato flakes to a very large mixing bowl. Add enough hot water to make the mixture moist but stiff. Mix well and let cool until cool enough to handle.
Add the mashed potatoes to a plate and use your hands to form into a circus tent shape, creating straight sides, a sloping top, and a pointed peak. Flag is optional.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy