In Absolute Best Tests, our writer Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She’s boiled dozens of eggs, seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall, and tasted enough types of bacon to concern a cardiologist. Today, she tackles mashed potatoes.
The world’s first potato moved from a pocket of dirt to a mouth sometime between 8,000 and 5,000 B.C.E., in Peru. Some millennia later, Spanish conquistadors brought the tubers back to Europe, resulting in the earliest recorded recipe for mashed ones. It came courtesy of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, written in 1747 by Hannah Glasse, and went something like this: Boil your potatoes until fork-tender, then peel, then mash within a small saucepan. Add a pint of milk, some salt, stir—with attention to the layer at the pan’s very bottom—and a quarter-pound of butter. Stir again. Serve.