Saturday, July 16, 2016

Potato salad as it relates to mental health

It's potato salad season! I'll try not to make too much fun of it because plenty of seemingly decent people actually like the stuff, or are at least polite enough to pretend they find it tolerable at a picnic. The smell of mayo throws me into suppress-gag-reflex mode, so I stay away from it myself. (And now that I'm an adult, I don't get dragged to family picnics where I have to endure all the grown-ups trying to force some onto my plate and giving me the "you don't know what you're missing" speech. I knew what you were missing, Aunt Pat, and that was having me barf on your patio, so you should have toned down your damn protests.)

But anyway, I have stumbled across a couple amazing potato salad (or in the first case, potato-salad-adjacent) recipes that I just had to share. These are potato salad recipes for control freaks... Potato salad recipes for the people who will lie awake at night if the carrots aren't arranged in perfect parallel lines in the crisper or if someone stirred the oil into the peanut butter in a counter-clockwise motion (as opposed to the obviously-correct clockwise way).

This first recipe (from Woman's Day Collector's Cook Book, 1960) is for the person who can't stand the chaos of tumbling cooked potatoes, dressing, and veggies all together. (It's madness! Madness!)

Yes, Potatoes Mayonnaise is potato salad peeled down to its bare minimum-- just the potatoes and dressing-- and served in the most precise, orderly way possible. Cooks don't just dump and stir the ingredients together: they paint individual potato cubes with the mayo mixture and serve each one on its own toothpick. Real sticklers probably have to cut the potatoes into exactly 64 cubes while they're at it so the serving plate can have a nice, neat 8 x 8 grid of impaled potatoes. The trick is not to have a nervous breakdown when guests break up the pattern by actually eating the little guys.

The second recipe (from National Grange Bicentennial Year Cookbook, 1975) is for the control freak who also has delusions of grandeur. Mixing ingredients up might be okay IF they can all become part of some bigger picture, some grander scheme that will make viewers step back, mouths agape, and think, "Wow! I didn't know she'd gotten this bad. I wonder if I can get her to talk to her doctor." I am referring, of course, to this beauty:

Nope, I'm not confused. I did not accidentally insert the wrong picture. This is, indeed, potato salad:

Wedding Cake Potato Salad must have been what every good country girl dreamed of having at her '70s wedding: ten pounds of potatoes, a whole bottle of Italian dressing, plus plenty of celery, onions, and Hellman's or Best Foods real mayonnaise. The whole mess is molded in tiered cake pans, then stacked and decorated with tomato roses (so much fancier than the run-of-the-mill radish roses), celery leaves, and cucumber cups filled with frilly piped-in mayo.

This "cake" is the perfect thing to display all afternoon on the patio next to an outdoor wedding, then serve the guests once it starts to melt in the heat. If the wedding party is lucky, the food poisoning won't set in until at least the next day, so the patio will be safe (although the honeymoon might take a very unsexy turn).

Have a great weekend! I'm off to try to think about something other than mayonnaise! Typing the word that many times has made me a little queasy. (Maybe I'm a bit of a masochist. Mayo. Mayo. Mayonnaise! Gah!)


  1. Mayo is the devil's condiment! German potato salad is the only way to go

  2. I've seen a lot of dinner cakes. My personal favorite (or at least, the one I think sounds like it'd taste best) is the meatloaf iced with mashed potatoes and decorated with vegetables cut into flowers and confetti.