How An Ode to Mashed Potatoes Made Justin Badlam PolicyMic's Newest Pundit


It's hard to believe, but we're almost finished with PolicyMic's April 50 Under 30 challenge. So, if you're thinking about applying and joining our awesome community, now is the time. The deadline for our competition is April 29th.

When we launched the competition to bring in 50 new writers under the age of 30 this month, we asked applicants to teach us something they loved doing as part of their submission. The amount of talent and witty responses that poured in has been truly remarkable. 

Look how thrilled the PolicyMic editors are about all the new writers we've received this month!

About the April 50 Under 30 Challenge: If you’re brand-new to PolicyMic, and want to teach us something you love, apply to become a one of April's 50 new writers. Deadline: Monday, April 29. Email Caira Conner ( (Subj: April 50 Under 30 Challenge) with the following:

- Resume + Section you want to write for (Politics, Culture, Feminism)

Our newest recruit is Justin Badlam, who applied by submitting an essay called "Ode to Mashed Potatoes." He's been perfecting this recipe since he was a teenager.

About Justin: Justin is the Principal at an economic research firm in D.C. He graduated from George Mason University's School of Public Policy with a focus on entrepreneurship and economic development policies in 2011. Justin is also an enthusiastic sandwich eater.

From Justin: Higher education is designed to equip students with the requisite knowledge and abilities to transition into a career. Undoubtedly, we all acquired important career-skills like regressions, how to follow MLA guidelines religiously, and the rules of parliamentary procedure. While essential for their specific fields, they aren’t really an essential part of life. But having the ability for making some kickin’ mashed potatoes —that’s another story. I have an impressive talent for turning this starchy, tuberous crop into the gem of any dinner.

Mashed potatoes are an art form that I have perfected since adolescence. The recipe and secret ingredients have been passed down from my Polish ancestors and has been slightly modified with my own personal touch (and love of horseradish). You start with a 2 lb. sack of redskin potatoes—the only ones that will fly for the family recipe. Peel the potatoes sparingly, leaving much of the skin. Red skin potatoes are smooth and not as course on the outside as others. Boil them in a large pot and drain. Next, add ¼ stick of butter and ¼ cup of milk to coat the potatoes and enough to cover the bottom of the pot (add more milk if they appear dry). Grab your masher and get to work!

The mashing continues until the potatoes are broken down. The key to great mashed potatoes is consistency and fluff. Next, add 2 tablespoons of sour cream, an additional ¼ stick of butter, a few pinches of fresh dill, and 3 tablespoons of horseradish. Grab a fork and whip them up until nice and fluffy. Add salt and pepper at your own discretion. Overwhipping and adding too much liquid will turn them into a gluey mess. You will be sad. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes off heat, then re-heat prior to serving.

The process of making the perfect batch of mashed potatoes almost always requires improvisation and thinking outside the box. In making mashed potatoes, as in life, you have to approach the creation with an entrepreneurial spirit. I only acquired this skill through trial and error, along with many potato batches that were chunky or watery. Delivering each delectable spoonful to your dinner guests requires risk and combination of the right ingredients. The most rewarding experience is the compliments and smiles on the faces of your dinner guests. I hope to bring the same approach in making mashed potatoes to the PolicyMic community by covering public policy issues facing small businesses and entrepreneurs.

For more news on Justin, follow him on Twitter: @jmbadlam