As we come to the midpoint of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, there’s just one question uppermost on this girl’s mind…whose potato salad reigns supreme?
From the dawn of civilization—or at least as far back as the introduction of the backyard picnic—a raging dispute has occurred in this great nation of ours. Right up there with taxes, politics, and the incessant barking of the neighbor’s dog—there is perhaps no greater subject given to discussion this time of year than that of the great spud salad debate.
Mustard or mayonnaise? Mayo or Miracle Whip? Sweet relish or dill pickles? Reds or Russets? The combinations are as endless as Congress’ inability to come to an agreement on, well, anything.
Growing up, I was one of those kids who lived in a bit of a bubble. By that I mean until I was about 12 or so, I thought everyone came from big families, went to Mass on Sundays, and ate my Mom’s potato salad. Which isn’t to say I thought my Mom was whipping up potato salad for the little ‘m’ masses, but rather, I just assumed that everyone made potato salad like my Mom. Imagine my surprise then, when one summer while attending a family picnic of a friend, upon making our way through the buffet line and spying a large bowl of something that was lumpy and vaguely milky looking, I heard my friend excitedly say “Oh look! Aunt Barb’s potato salad!”
Now I’m not exactly saying it looked less than appealing, but the stuff that was in the bowl that day didn’t even remotely resemble what I knew to be potato salad. First of all, real potato salad is far more mustard-y yellow than pallid white. And everyone knows there should be plenty of hard boiled eggs added to the mix. But the worst offense of all? Nary a single sprinkle of paprika could be found anywhere for that all important culinary pop of color to adorn the top. And here all this time, I thought I knew this family.
Color discrepancies notwithstanding, I’m also aware this unsung hero of simple summer fare is not without its detractors. While I wouldn’t wish salmonella on anyone, here again, if everyone made potato salad like my Mom, there’d be no need for worry as even the biggest batch of hers doesn’t last but a few fleeting moments before each and every perfectly diced potato-ey chunk of perfection is scooped up and thwapped onto the assorted Chinet plate of those blessed to be gathered.
Bet you didn’t know the humble potato has loose biblical ties going all the way back to the book of Genesis. If you go by the French translation for potato—pomme de terre or apple of the earth—it’s easy to imagine Eve falling to the temptation of seeking knowledge of the best potato salad recipe. Generation upon generation later, people remain riveted on this very quest. But hey—for a small fee, I might be persuaded to share my Mom’s :)