Cooking with Joy

Cheesy potatoes bring memories of houseguest

April 15, 2014 

Our children were lucky enough to go to a high school that had a foreign exchange program with a school in Germany. Their school, Sleepy Hollow High School in Tarrytown, N.Y., and the high school in Renningen, Germany, participated in this program.

The German kids came to Tarrytown for three weeks in the fall, and our students went to Renningen in the spring. It was a win-win experience for everyone.

We volunteered to host a German student each fall. In the first three years we hosted two delightful girls and one not-so-delightful boy. This boy was caught with beer on the football field, stayed out late, left a trail of dirty clothes and wet towels from his bedroom to the shower, and lost his passport the day before he was to leave. Needless to say, we will never forget him.

When our children graduated and left home, we began hosting the German teachers who accompanied the students to Tarrytown. For the next three years we hosted two delightful teachers and one-not-so delightful teacher named Reiner.

Reiner was an oddball who lurked around the house and kept his bedroom door locked at all times. He roamed our neighborhood without telling us, so we never knew whether he was inside or outside of the house. He simply would disappear.

Actually we saw very little of him – except at dinnertime. Just like clockwork, he would magically appear in the kitchen when it was time to eat, even though I hadn’t called anyone to the table yet. He would sit down and wait to be served. If there was food already on the table, he would start without us.

The night that he ate all of our favorite potato dish before we got to the table was the cruelest blow of all. My beloved cheesy scalloped potatoes were gone – all gone – in a matter of minutes. I couldn’t believe it. These potatoes became our nightly dinner special for the remainder of his visit.

To this day, I still think of Reiner every time I make this dish. It remains one of our favorites. Even though my husband doesn’t like cheese, he likes these scalloped potatoes – which speaks volumes. The combination of potatoes, green peppers and pimentos in a light cheese sauce is as pretty to look at as it is delicious to eat.

Keep in mind, it must be good if someone can eat an entire bowl of it in one sitting!

Joy Smith is a resident of Fort Mill. Contact her at

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

4 cups diced potatoes

1 green pepper, chopped

1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos

Salt and pepper to taste

For the cheese sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and stir with a whisk. Add salt and pepper and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Stir in grated cheese until the sauce is smooth.

Slowly boil potatoes in water for 5 to 10 minutes – no more. Pour into a colander and drain.

Put drained potatoes in a baking dish, and gently stir in chopped green peppers and pimentos. Add salt and pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the potatoes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

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