Until not too long ago, I was a serious potato salad bigot. This was not entirely my fault. My mother, good ole gal, born and raised in the Brazos Bryan, Texas, made potato salad with onions, sweet pickles, pimento, eggs, mayonnaise and mustard and so did everyone else we knew; family or friends. But one day, I must have been about 10 years old, our family was invited to a backyard barbecue by new friends of my parents who were neither southern nor Texan. The woman came towards the table with a big bowl of boiled potatoes mixed with mayonnaise and asked me if I would like some “potato salad”. Horrified, I looked at my mother who was already looking at me and said, “Yes Ma’am”. In those days, your parents could backhand you from the table and no one would think anything of it or be embarrassed except the victim, who was mostly wondering, “What was I thinking?!” I helped myself to a decent amount and choked those potatoes down with a smile that was very close to a grimace. Discourtesy was not an option, no matter what. We raised our children like that also and we’re proud of them
Anyway, that was it for me. After that, I never depended on the potato salad of strangers. Unless we were with Texan friends, at table I would take the least amount possible and at potluck buffets, when no one was looking, I would take my mother’s or nothing. When I got married and saw the boiled potatoes with mayonnaise at my mother-in-law’s home, I always volunteered to make the potato salad which won me brownie points with the in-laws and saved me from the embarrassment of retching at the table. This is a true story.
However, you can’t imagine the shock I experienced when invited to my sister’s house for a barbecue and she mixed up a bunch of bizarre items in an empty mayonnaise jar, poured it over boiled potatoes and declared that it was Mom’s potato salad! Of course my mother was dead by then or my dear sister wouldn’t have been able to avoid the disciplinary backhand for lying. She couldn’t help it because this sister was never in the kitchen when anything was being prepared, so she couldn’t possibly know. You would have thought that the taste would have given her a clue, though. I didn’t say anything because my husband and son were giving me a look
Abdoulaye the cook. When Abdoulaye first came to work for me and we were working out a menu for a barbecue buffet, he suggested potato salad as one of the side dishes. My hair stood on end (Burkinabe, French trained, Moslem) but, in order not to discourage him, I agreed and made sure that I was not in the kitchen during preparation with disgust written all over my face. Just before the guests arrived, I went into the kitchen to see how things were going and to my amazement, Abdoulaye had made my mother’s potato salad! “Where did you learn that?”, I asked. “My last patronne taught me. She was from Texas.” said Abdoulaye the Great. Case closed
Times change and I have have changed with time. I now make and enjoy Japanese and many other varieties of potato salad but there will always be a special place in my heart for my mother’s Texas potato salad.
Note: I had to use hot dog pickle relish today for this salad because I didn’t have any gherkins. But I suggest that you don’t substitute pickle relish for the chopped gherkins. The dice is too small and too much sweet pickle juice comes along for the ride. Also American yellow mustard is mandatory.
Authentic Texas Potato Salad
5 large potatoes, boiled and vaguely cubed
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped sweet gherkins
1 4 oz jar diced pimentos
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 tbsp American yellow mustard
3/4 – 1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
Mix everything together and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Overnight is better.