Anyone who ever went to school in Central Florida knows about the Dark Side of the School Lunch Program.
They call it Potato Turbate. Don’t ask me why. That’s just what they call it. Does anyone know what a “turbate” is? It’s still on the menu for the Pinellas County Schools. My brother and I absolutely detested it. It was worse than the mystery meat burgers (which came pre-soaked in a watered-down sauce not entirely unlike ketchup). It was worse than the very large Lunchroom Matron with the microphone who kept order. (The teachers had duty-free lunch. They got to relax and kibbitz in child-free luxury while we were herded by a cross between Shirley Q. Liquor and Barry Bonds.) They got to eat real food while we got to eat . . .
Believe it or not, some kids pined for Potato Turbate. I thought it was revolting. It was apparently so popular, they had to print the recipe in the St. Petersburg Times, so kids could have it at home! Eat it at home? As if eating it in school weren’t punishment enough?
Anyway, for those of you who pine for School-Lunch cuisine, here’s the recipe for the dreaded . . .
6 servings instant mashed potatoes
1 pound ground beef
3 level tablespoons chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup beef bouillon
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Prepare instant potatoes according to package directions.
Brown ground meat lightly; drain off fat (I think they skipped the “drain off fat” part at my school). Add onions and seasoning (I also think they skipped the “seasoning” part: it was as bland as Bob Newhart). Cook 5 minutes longer. Add flour; mix well with meat mixture. Stir and scrape bottom of pan (don’t want to leave any of that Turbate-y goodness in the pan, now, do we?). Add bouillon to meat and spoon into greased casserole (like there’s not enough grease already). Spread mashed potatoes over meat. Brush potatoes with melted butter and dust lightly with paprika. Bake at 400 degrees until brown on top, about 25 minutes.
The source I found added these embellishments:
“Patricia Sandage of St. Petersburg prepares a deluxe version with homemade mashed potatoes instead of instant.” (Ooh! Potato Turbate Deluxe!)
“Carol Hartman of Largo tops the meat with a thick layer of American cheese before adding the mashed potatoes.” (It couldn’t hurt.)
“Alice Black of St. Petersburg mixes 2 tablespoons flour with the meat, then adds 1 cup bouillon and 1 (1-pound) can drained green beans to the meat mixture.” (Then that would be, Shepherd’s Pie Turbate?)
“Faye Schmelig of Palm Harbor adds green beans (drained 1-pound can) and a can of condensed tomato soup (instead of the bouillon) to the meat mixture.” (Thus creating the even more-appetizingly-named “Schmelig Turbate.”)
And to all of you who were still thinking of what to fix for dinner, let me just say, “You’re welcome!”