What's for Breakfast?

Grieving and the holidays and embracing a potential potato disaster

We’re deep into holiday season now, and this time of year can be extraordinarily tough, particularly if your grief runs counter to the social demands for gaity and festivity.

Some of us find comfort in rituals and seasonal celebrations; some of us don’t. A friend of mine, who recently lost her little brother, recently remarked that she was sort of relieved she hadn’t developed any traditions as an adult that relied heavily on family gatherings as she was this year, for the first time in her life, the sole surviving person in it. If there is one bright spot in this difficult time of year, I told her, it was that people tend to be a bit more understanding of your grief. No one wants to hear that you’re sad in the spring or summer. (No one wants to hear you’re sad anytime, really.) But folks give you a bit more space to be sad at Christmas. (Cue Elvis.) “The holidays must be hard,” they say. I mean, every day is hard, but sure sure, the holidays sucks too.

So lean into it, I say. Take that small space that our culture allows for your grief and wedge yourself in there. Make the holidays take whatever shape or form you want or need them to be.

Know too that one of the markers of this time of year is, itself, the seasonal shift. In the northern hemisphere, the days will start getting longer. The new year will soon be upon us — it’s a time to think about change, renewal, letting go. There’s all sorts of grief wrapped up in that process, whether or not one has lost a loved one and has to face yet another year without them.

Today’s recipe — it’s potato month, if you recall — has absolutely nothing to do with grief. And although my thoughts are deeply with Isaiah this time of year (because honestly, I think of him every day and I will until the day I die), today’s recipe — a Spanish tortilla — isn’t something that I ever made for him. I does make me think of him, I suppose, as it involves a rather precarious trick: flipping an eggy, potato mixture over and sliding it back into the skillet without disastrously losing it all onto the stovetop or floor. This is precisely the type of feat that Isaiah would come into the kitchen to watch, with a smirk that said “you’re probably going to fuck this up but I’ll eat it anyway.” So don’t worry if your tortilla is a mess. Life is like that.

Spanish Tortilla

Source: America’s Test Kitchen, minus the peas because Kin has a pretty strict no-pea policy

Servings: 8


  • 6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (3 to 4 medium), cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, dried, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces


Toss 4 tablespoons oil, potatoes, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl until potato slices are thoroughly separated and coated in oil. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet — the selection of the right skillet here will make or break the flip. choose wisely — over medium-high heat until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium-low, add potato mixture to skillet, and set bowl aside without washing. Cover and cook, stirring with rubber spatula every 5 minutes, until potatoes offer no resistance when poked with tip of paring knife, 22 to 28 minutes (it’s OK if some potato slices break into smaller pieces).

Meanwhile, whisk eggs and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in reserved bowl until just combined. Using rubber spatula, fold hot potato mixture and red peppers into eggs until combined, making sure to scrape all potato mixture out of skillet. Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining teaspoon oil, and heat until just beginning to smoke. Add egg-potato mixture and cook, shaking pan and folding mixture constantly for 15 seconds. Smooth top of mixture with rubber spatula. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook, gently shaking pan every 30 seconds until bottom is golden brown and top is lightly set, about 2 minutes.

Using rubber spatula, loosen tortilla from pan, shaking back and forth until tortilla slides around freely in pan. Slide tortilla onto large plate. Invert tortilla onto second large plate and slide it browned-side up back into skillet. Tuck edges of tortilla into skillet with rubber spatula. Return pan to medium heat and continue to cook, gently shaking pan every 30 seconds, until second side is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Slide tortilla onto cutting board or serving plate and allow to cool at least 15 minutes. Cut tortilla into cubes or wedges.

Stock photography because my tortillas never look this beautiful. They have never ended up on the floor, but they’re always right on the edge of disaster. Sort of like grief. It’s just always almost going to destroy you...