She taught me her dab-of-this-and-that recipe. Chopping onions wrung a million tears from my eyes, and my weepy attempts couldn’t begin to match her blue-ribbon results. At potlucks, I learned to avoid other cooks’ mushy, bland concoctions sprinkled with scary green things. Thus, I took part in the Great Potato Salad Controversy, far more extensive than I could have imagined at that tender age.
That reality truly hit home when, at 16, I waited on a restaurant customer who ordered German potato salad.
Retrieving the food, I called to the cook, “You forgot the potato salad.”
“You’re crazy. It’s right there.”
The manager corroborated the cook’s absurd claim: the sliced potatoes in gooey stuff with bacon was indeed German potato salad.
When, as a young married woman, I explored recipes, even American potato salad presented controversies. Some cooks insisted on real mayo, as if Miracle Whip were pushed by criminals out to ruin the purity of American cuisine.
Then yogurt and low-calorie radicals intensified the debate.
Add mustard versus no-mustard schools of flavoring, dill versus sweet-pickle/relish, mystical devotion paid to fresh herbs, and religion-sized chasms separated various sects.
Rewind to Mom’s potato salad. I wish she — and I — had conceived the lucrative potential of our culinary endeavors.
According to the New York Daily News, Zack “Danger” Brown challenged viewers of a fundraising website to finance his first attempt at making potato salad.
Expecting $10, he raised $55,000.
Thankfully, Brown was no potato head. He made a huge contribution to his hometown food pantry.
Mom also fought hunger with her potato salad. She regularly filled up a large, voracious family. She shared it with lonely parishioners, troubled teens, ex-prisoners, domestic violence victims, and itinerant preachers. Occasionally feeding 30-40 people at one meal, she made tons of potato salad throughout the decades.
Today, chopping onions and staunching teary eyes, I remember a woman who gave not only cups of water in Jesus’ name, but bowls and bowls of the world’s best potato salad.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What comprises your perfect recipe?