Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My Grandmother's Potato Salad: A Labor of Love

This weekend, I had no kids in the house. They were at my in laws, and as a result I was able to rearrange rooms and sift through neglected piles.  My husband and I went to the baseball game and out to dinner every night. And, I was able to make my Grandmother's Potato Salad, a labor of love (especially since I made it on Labor Day!).  

When a family member first thinks of my grandmother, people think about her wit, her beauty, her loyalty to her family, and her generosity. They do not think about her cooking.  She really has had three or four good dishes she has depended on over the years (you only need a few!), and this potato salad is one of them. My family would arrive in Ohio from our twelve hour car trip and be greeted by this potato salad, the best one in the world. It had bacon, and was filled with egg, and I could even tolerate the celery.  

In my twenties, after stuffing a few scoops into my mouth, I finally asked for the recipe.  As customary, she mailed it to me in a card. She had carefully copied it down in blue marker in her clear, precise, signature penmanship, with her own notes. I folded it carefully in my recipe book. My Brooklyn "kitchen" could not tolerate potato salad for ten, and my apartment could not fit ten people.

My first attempt to make it was for my husband's (then fiancee's) thirtieth birthday party. In honor of his southern roots, I made southern dishes, thus potato salad (I also had a new kitchen!).  It took me hours and about twenty dollars worth of ingredients.  But it tasted the same, and people raved. 

Well, five years, three moves, and two babies later, I finally made it again. Assigned to make potato salad for the family's Labor Day picnic, I had the time and the kitchen space to attempt it again. Since I had a stocked pantry, I also had many of the ingredients (still didn't have "savory", but Mammo said she never used it either. What is "savory"?).  After peeling the potatoes and chopping the vegetables, it actually didn't take as long as I remembered. And the results were the same. Perfect potato salad that has just enough of everything.  

Mammo's Potato Salad (in her words)

6 medium potatoes

1 tsp mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Savory [I never have this ingredient]
salt and pepper
1/4 cup salad oil
1/4 cup vinegar  

2 eggs
4 strips of bacon [I probably make it six]
1 small onion
2 large stalks of celery
2 tomatoes [skin them by dipping in boiling water briefly] 
1 small cucumber
1/4 cup salad dressing - I use Miracle Whip
3 Tlbs pepper relish
lettuce [ washed and dried]

Boil potatoes, slice into a large bowl.
Place all seasoning in a jar with oil and vinegar. Shake well. Pour over the potatoes and let them mellow. Hard boil the eggs, put them in as you boil the potatoes. Cut onion, celery and cucumber. Slice all the cucumber peel and core [taking out all seeds].
Drain excess dressing from potatoes and add the rest of the ingredients and toss lightly. Refrigerate and when ready to serve place on a bed of lettuce. 

Putnam Dinner notes:  I only used four slices of bacon, I did not skin the tomatoes. I used Hellman's. and I used sweet pickle relish because I could not find pepper relish at the Harris Teeter. Does that exist?  We served the potato salad with burgers.  

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