Mashed Potatoes

Cats Cradle Copyright Kate Forman 2009
Cats Cradle Copyright Kate Forman 2009

This past weekend I went out to dinner with my fella and my folks. It was lovely. My Mother was torn between two entrees, and made her decision after speaking with Stella, our patient waitress. The deciding question? My Mother wanted to know if the mashed potatoes were real.

 Now, I don’t know how you feel about mashed potatoes. My guess is that some of you are pondering the deep existential question: how can mashed potatoes not be real? Whereas quite a few others are nodding their heads sagely and recalling all the many times you ate out and had to clear up the same important point.
 
I’ll level the playing field, it’s not a nice topic, and it’s not always easy to talk about, but the reality is that some people, and some restaurants, actually use something called “instant mashed potatoes,” and then attempt to pass that salty mess off as the real thing.
 
This is a bit of a jump, but I promise it’ll all make sense in the end…I watched an interesting little video today, brought to you by the nice folks at Agency Access: Creative Collision: Is Print Dead? I knew I wanted to incorporate it into this blog, but I spent all day painting and kicking it around in my mind, yet still hadn’t been able to articulate what I wanted to say…until my Cousin Chrissi brought me dinner…aka: a big plate of mashed potatoes from Doc Watson’s.
 
Rest assured, they’re the real deal, appropriate texture, occasional lump to assure authenticity, but not to detract from the flavor, not too much butter, just right. To quote my cousin, right around the time I was having a party in my mouth I also had an epiphany in my noggin.
 
The video, “Is Print Dead?” features the divergent viewpoints of many people in the graphic arts industry — illustrators, designers, photographers, art directors, etc. — on what they think the future of print is. It makes sense, our worlds are increasingly digital, newspapers are gasping for air, and the kindle is now a household name. However, the folks spotlighted in the video who made the case for print still being a viable industry and source of income used the words “texture” and “tangible” consistently, and posited that those two qualities are inherently attractive to us, the consumers, and will never really go out of style or marketability.
 
I agree, but I’m biased: my work is hands on, and so is the artwork I’m attracted to. I appreciate slick digital design and animation, but then I stand in front of one of my sister’s paintings and am in awe — and I find that even holding a print reproduction is more satisfying than just viewing it on-line (though do check her blog out — you won’t be disappointed!)
 
Digital makes “sense,” it’s cleaner, faster, and more flexible. A lot like…instant mashed potatoes. It’s technology, and it’s efficient. The thing is, it’s not nearly as satisfying. In a pinch, fine — just add water and mix, but if it’s really special, or if it’s needed for comfort, or for emotional impact, or to mark some significant event, shouldn’t it be tangible and textured?
 
Unlike the many things that send me into cataclysmic doomsday prophecies, this debate isn’t one of them. I agree with the print cheerleaders in the video: how things feel matter, and for those who appreciate the feeling, they’ll always seek out the real thing.
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