Saturday, July 04, 2009

Evolving traditions.

Mom and Dad on their wedding day (on the right)
27 November 1930

In my family Mom always made the potato salad and my sister Shirley always made the macaroni salad. We all believed (and still do) that they did it best. Mother's potato salad was very simple. Potatoes, celery, pimento, red onion, Best Foods mayonnaise (Hellman's if you are east of the Rockies), salt, pepper, vinegar. I think she might have had parsley also. She was adamant about not adding mustard or eggs in her potato salad.

So the potato salad I just made for today's festivities is basically that of my mother. I overcooked the potatoes, so it is a bit mushy. She would not approve. I used white balsamic vinegar from Modena. I think Mom would be totally cool with that. Where she used a jar of chopped pimento, drained, I chopped up a roasted red pepper. No real difference there. I used kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Mother would not have thought of those options back in the 50s but would be fine them.

The parsley I use is Armenian parsley, as we always called it - what the rest of y'all call Italian or flat-leaf parsley. It has so much more flavor and I grew up on it, being surrounded by Armenian cooks and folks who learned from Armenian cooks. I let the parsley in my back yard go to seed two years ago. I now have three plants of it in various locations but did not want to harvest most of my leaves today. What truly amazed me was that the parsley from the first year overwintered.

All in all, today's product is recognizably my mother's potato salad in flavor profile and ingredients.

Mom was born in Fairfax, Missouri, and moved to California as a little girl. She was a good midwestern cook. Pepper and salt were her main spices; this was not French cuisine but it was honest, good-tasting, and satisfying. Trying to make a dish like she made feels good.

Here's to you, Hallie!

May you all eat something wonderful this Independence Day.

--the BB


susan s. said...

I love that picture! All that hair on your dad's head! Amazing.

My mother had recipes she always used, but as she got older she even bought biscuits in a bag. Potato salad was another example of that.

Your mother would not have approved of my mother. Eggs and yellow mustard always. Onions never. My stepfather "didn't like onions," and she catered to his tastes, such as they were.

Happy 4th, Paul.

Paul said...

Happy 4th to you, Susie Sue. I like most potato salads, so I don't scorn other versions. But the standard, of course, is Mom's.

Mother used to bake from scratch but she switched to box cakes and even frosting in a can. When I was little that would never have happened.

Yes, my dad had major hair in his youth. Later on is was more like mine; thin to bald.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Paul, I love the picture. Oh for the days of simple weddings. Grandpère and I had a simple wedding. I'm going to have to buy a scanner so I can scan the simple pictures of our simple wedding.

Your mom and aunt are both very pretty, and your dad had quite a full mane. Did he keep it?

Paul said...

Dad did not keep all that hair. I always marveled at the photos of his youth. Mom and her best friend Doris Crumb were lovely. I am trying to remember the best man's name. Starts with a W.... Wendel? I am just not sure. If it comes to me I will know it.

I used a digital camera to take photos of many old photos. Scanning would have been better but this worked well enough.

The church where Grandmother was active (Memorial Baptist) was just a block from my grandparents house, which turned out to be the house I grew up in.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Well, I didn't think of that. I could do that, couldn't I? Now I'll need to locate the album (amongst many unlabeled possibles) which has the pictures in it.

Paul said...

It's worth a try, Mimi, and you could save some shekels.

My printer also scans but the link between scanner and computer no longer works and I can't seem to do it, though printing works just fine. Grrr.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Very good looking ;=)

Paul said...

Tak, tak.

Ellie Finlay said...


Sounds really yummy.

And I agree: GREAT photo!

Jane R said...

As I said on FB, or maybe I said something like it: great photo, and such beautiful folks. And yummy potato salad.

Word verification: undeming.