PORTLAND — Maine may be best known for its seafood, but the state is also a major producer of potatoes.
That’s why it made perfect sense for Renee Rhoads, of Falmouth, to sell only foods nestled in mashed potatoes from her new food truck, appropriately called Mashed.
The rotating menu includes a Thanksgiving-themed offering of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce; a shepherd’s pie (also available meatless for vegetarians), and a pulled pork offering with coleslaw, bread and butter pickles, and cornbread.
For dessert Rhoads offers a classic Maine favorite: needhams, also made with mashed potatoes.
Rhoads describes herself as “a passionate cook and gardener.” She’s been an elementary school teacher for more than 20 years, and with her oldest son now heading off to college, she decided to try something new.
“When families heard that a fourth-grade teacher (at Yarmouth Elementary School) was leaving to start a mobile food business, they all knew it was me. I’m famous for cooking with my students,” she said. “I’ve (also) been the school garden coordinator at my school for the past three years (because) I’m so passionate about growing and preparing food.”
Mashed is one of 20 food trucks now licensed to operate in Portland, according to city records.
So far Rhoads has only been out on the Eastern Prom twice, but said “it’s been wonderful. People have really enjoyed the food. The people on the hill have been friendly and welcoming. It’s such a great feeling to make people happy and meet new folks.”
Until she finishes the school year Rhoads only plans to be out once a week, either Saturday or Sunday afternoon, whichever day has better weather. “Once I can go full time, I plan to create a schedule that includes different public locations, breweries and special events,” she said.
In addition, Rhoads will be one of the vendors at the Street Eats & Beats festival being held at Thompson’s Point on May 20. In fact, she got the inspiration for Mashed when she attended last year’s festival.
Rhoads said she did “lots of taste-testing” while developing her menu.
Her mashed potato recipe includes no dairy products, and all of the dishes she makes are also gluten-free. Most of her dishes are based on recipes she has prepared for many years.
“Lots are based on the cooking my grandmother taught me (including) slow roasting meats for tenderness,” Rhoads said. “I (also) love to experiment, so I find recipes online and tweak them to my liking.”
Rhoads said if Maine had a state vegetable the potato could be it.
“I love to buy local and the potato is iconic,” she said. “My sons love mashed potatoes. They are the ultimate comfort food (and are) also healthier than eating fried potatoes.”
Rhoads buys all of her potatoes from Middle Intervale Farm in Bethel, which is owned and operated by John Carter, a seventh-generation farmer.
In the summer months she plans to use her own homegrown produce and said, “once I get into a groove, I’d like to make connections with other farmers.”
While Rhoads said she will miss teaching very much, her plan with Mashed is to “find ways to continue to teach and help people. I am not sure what this looks like yet, but I know that through my creativity I will find a way to connect my passions.”
Renee Rhoads of Falmouth, owner of the new Mashed food truck, on opening night in Portland earlier this month. Her truck features foods served in a nest of mashed potatoes.
The new Mashed food truck will make regular appearances on Portland’s Eastern Prom throughout the spring. It will also be at the Street Eats & Beats festival at Thompson’s Point on May 20.