I washed the potatoes carefully, then peeled them and cut them into chunks, wondering if it really mattered if they weren't exactly the same size. I boiled the pieces in lightly salted water, and when they were pretty well done, pulled them out, saving the potato water for a bread recipe from the California commune Tassajara. (Yes, call it obsessive, but leftover hippies like me who came of age in food-centric California can't seem to throw out water that potatoes have boiled in.)
I peeled the carrots and tried to cut them into same-size small chunks all the while having a brief internal debate about whether I could have grown these myself, but then I remembered that my kids and I tried that one summer and only harvested one bunch of thumb-sized carrots.
When the potpie was done, it was served hot, with a loaf of crusty Italian bread for dipping. The rich creamy sauce with hints of nutmeg and freshly cut herbs made the bread's flavor blossom.
Potpie had staying power. Wonderful smells filled the kitchen, and it stood alone on the counter, its beauty not threatened by bags of chips that looked like dorm food.
Then I waited for things to get better.
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Broth and chicken:
1 broiler-fryer chicken, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
1 rib celery, with leaves
1 medium carrot, quartered
½ parsnip, cut in chunks
¾ cup coarsely chopped onion
1 bouquet garni of 1 bay leaf, 3 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried), 3 whole peppercorns and 6 parsley sprigs tied in cheesecloth
1 teaspoon salt
½ pound frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed according to package directions
2 potatoes, peeled, cut in small chunks
1 carrot, peeled, sliced