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An open letter to my mother-in-law’s potato salad

Dear Potato Salad,

I don’t know how you do it.

Over the course of my thirty-odd years, I have lip-smacked many potato salads. The golden bowls were ever-present at every family gathering and reunion. Church potlucks, grocery store deli cases, funky little restaurants—each venue specialized in a certain type of potato salad and I tried them all.

Church ladies are fond of adding celery. The chain grocery store adds senseless pimentos and too much mustard. Sandwich shops seem to embrace new red potatoes for color, dill, and sometimes the exotic like cilantro. There are as many ways to do potato salad as there are stars in the very heavens. Yukon gold with a garlic touch, russets with sharp cheddar melded in the mix, new reds with the tang of sour cream, and always welcome—diced Claussen kosher dills.

I’ve spat it out (celery!), relished it, and no-doubt suffered from the effects of bacterial overgrowth 12-24 hours after eating a paper plateful under towering oaks at the reunion of fifth cousins, now further removed by Staphylococcus aureus.

So it is you, Mother-in-Law’s Potato Salad, I now acknowledge as Queen of Potato Salads. My qualifications as prolific and learned tester of all that is pomme de terre makes your crown incontestable, undisputable, and irrevocable.

How have you won my heart? Let us count the ways…

You exhibit the masterful balance betwixt the mustard and the mayo. You hide slivered hard boiled eggs in between your first-rate, skillfully boiled soft cubes, providing a taste surprise that is unparalleled. Your tangy crisp diced pickles are perfectly antagonistic to the smooth creaminess of the potato and provide a nice bite that keeps my mouth coming back for more.

Thank you, Mother-in-Law’s Potato Salad, for coming into my life. But most importantly, I want to thank the genius behind your greatness and that is my Mother-in-Law. She excels in far more than slinging ten pounds of potatoes and a few dozen eggs around a kitchen and somehow coming up with a food I would gladly be shipwrecked on a tropical island with.

She’s an excellent person, and for that I am most grateful.



14 comments to An open letter to my mother-in-law’s potato salad

  • rossmomma

    How fortunate you are to have not only great potato salad in your life, but also a great mother-in-law!

  • Did you not know she puts celery in hers too? I agree with not liking celery in mine, but somehow she sneaks it in with finesse!

  • Think Nini will overnight me some MILPS leftovers?

    It sounds MARVELOUS!

  • Julana

    I didn’t realize you were Lifenut. 🙂
    Now I’m hungry. Are you going to post that recipe, or is it a family secret?

  • mopsy

    Nini! Where? Where? Celery? Where? I ate a giant mound of it with lunch and nothing struck me as celery. She is sneaky…….

    Recipe? I don’t even have it. I suspect she doesn’t actually use a recipe. It’s all in her head.

  • I have observed that my own mother’s cooking ALWAYS tastes better than mine, even when we follow the same recipe. This is true for the potato salad. I fear that when I am an old woman I will have to eschew potato salad, and a few other things, altogether because no one, self included, will ever make it right again.

  • mopsy

    Julana–yes, dill pickles, finely chopped. Yum!

    Laura–same with my mom. I don’t remember one iffy meal growing up. My kids, unless they develop selective memory that filters out sub-cooked rice and rubbery pork chops, will definately not remember me as a great cook.

  • After reading this yesterday morning, of course I craved potato salad. We were heading to my parents’ for dinner, and I thought . . . maybe? And yes! Not only potato salad, but barbecued steak and corn on the cob and blueberry cobbler. She showed me up once again, but I don’t mind one bit.

  • bro-de-mopsy

    The only good about Potato Salad is…the potatoes. At said family reunions of fifth cousins, you could count on me to slide right past that nasty bowl of filth on to the bucket of fried chicken.

  • bro-de-mopsy

    Certainly not trying to single out any ones potato salad, as I hate them all. Nor do I assume that potato salad eaters worldwide would not rave over mother-in-law-de-mopsy’s take on a crowd favorite.

    I’m the unusual one here…

  • Vashti

    How well written and entertaining. What a gift for prose you have! Vashti

  • […] Several days ago I received a letter in the mail from my mother-in-law. It was three pages. Two pages were the recipe for her potato salad, which I recently paid tribute. […]

  • […] The first is for my mother-in-law’s potato salad. I wrote about it here and here. […]

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