I had a sudden urge to make and eat a double batch of potato salad last week.
It’s got something to do with my ancestry. The Polish side of me makes my feet get happy when I hear polka music, and the German side cries out for kartoffelsalat every now and then.
Luckily for my health, it’s an urge that I have less often as I grow older and wider.
Over the years, the desire has overcome me many times but I have never used the same recipe twice. My German need for order and conformity makes sure that I start with a recipe but then the Polish ethos takes over and anything goes. This generally works out as potato salad lends itself to liberal substitutions, although I did make one batch with marshmallow fluff in the place of mayonnaise (they’re both white) that was, shall we say, less than appetizing. Another time I opted not to cook the potatoes but I almost managed to pull it off by presenting the dish at a potluck as potato salad al dente. If the party had been for Republicans it may have worked, they’ll obviously like anything or anyone.
Mostly, however, I’ve had success.
The recipe helps me start with a traditional ratio of the key ingredients: potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and a dressing. My creative side keeps things from getting boring. On my latest foray, for example, I substituted fresh asparagus from the garden for the chopped celery most recipes require. (I love asparagus– or “aspara-guy” as I like to call it– when it first starts coming on in late April but by June I’m fairly sick of it and looking for ways to use it up.)
To spice up the dressing, I usually add in a couple of splashes of vinegar – red, white, cider, balsamic or whatever– and some mustard.
In our household, Sabra does all the light chores like scrubbing toilets, washing clothes, rotating tires on the car or clearing the gutters of debris, but I do the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping the refrigerator clutter-free. If some mystery meat is found in a far corner of the Kenmore, it falls to me to consume it. If a dinner guest leaves behind a large crock-pot of corned beef in cream cheese the task of digesting the unlikely looking mixture falls to me before it muddles up the sub-zero.
It’s probably just as well as the woman has no clue when it comes to the subtleties of condiment storage. For example, at any given time, I like to have at least three different pickles on hand in the Amana: a standard dill for hamburgers and sandwiches, a bread and butter for midnight snacking and a Polish for when I feel a need to reconnect to my roots. I look into the fridge and see a smorgasbord of half-filled jars of gherkin delights; Sabra looks and sees only half-empty jars that need to be combined. I once caught her putting Claussen’s in with the Vlasic’s. Can you imagine? What’s next, congressmen sending out self-portraits of themselves wearing nothing but Fruit of the Looms?
But my topic is potato salad, not wieners.
Besides pickles, I like to have an assortment of hot sauces and mustards on hand to meet various culinary demands as they arise. A great artist must have many colors on his palette, and a great gourmand must have many mustards: yellow, spicy brown and, of course, Grey Poupon, (some day I aspire to start an institution of higher learning to study the virtues and uses of this last condiment. I’ll call it Grey Poupon University, or Poupon U. for short).
In any event, I killed two birds with one stone by splashing some white wine vinegar into a near-empty bottle of stone-ground deli mustard and shaking it before emptying it into the potato salad. It turned out delicious if I do say so myself.
Got to go, Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoes’ rendition of “Seven beers with the wrong women” just came up on my iPod and my feet just got to get going.
Bring on the zucchini.