By Guest Blogger Kelly Hines
I’m not sure how to tell you this, but – I make better potato salad than you. Red skinned potatoes, quartered, mashed just a little. Mayo, boiled egg, dill pickle, some Gulden’s brown mustard…
“No. NO NO NO.” My friend Angelique is shaking her head emphatically. “Wrong. You’re doing it wrong. No brown mustard, a little pickle juice-”. It’s my turn to shake my head, because I know you have to use dill relish, not just juice for crying out loud. I pity her and her subpar potato salad.
Everyone in my house knows that I make the best potato salad. And chicken and dumplings and lemon cake and pretty much everything else. My husband will warily eye a potluck table until he spots a dish he’s certain came from our kitchen. My kids turn up their noses at unfamiliar brands and I smile smugly any time a friend starts a sentence with “I make a really good…”. Sure you do, I think. Bless your heart.
Deep down, I know that it’s more familiarity than quality that makes my own little family such fans of my culinary delights. I was the same way as a child. My mom made the best of everything, from scrambled eggs to pot roast. We all marched in the loyalty parade, from my brother insisting that tomatoes grown in the shade of our backyard fence were far superior to those grown anywhere else, to my father saying that every time my mother nearly burnt his toast that it was, in fact, just the way he liked it.
It extended to the brands we used, and those that I continue to use today. My mother used Dawn dish soap and I will use Dawn dish soap until my dying day. If they came out tomorrow and told me Dawn dish soap was made of kittens I would tell you that I have never been a big fan of kittens anyway and would you look at that lather! Everyone knows you buy Heinz ketchup and Dixie Crystals sugar and Kraft singles. This is the way of the world and if you do it differently, you’re doing it wrong.
And then one day your partner with whom you have recently domiciled asks you to get mayonnaise at the grocery store. In my case, the request came when we’d been living together about a month. I went to the store and got the requested mayonnaise. That night, as he went to make a sandwich, I heard him gasp.
“What is this?” he was holding the jar of mayo with two fingers and staring at it with a look of disgust on his face. “That’s mayonnaise?” I answered. “This isn’t mayonnaise,” he replied, “It’s Miracle Whip.” He spat out the last two words like he was saying “fecal matter” or “radioactive waste”.
I shrugged my shoulders. In my house, Miracle Whip was the only mayonnaise we’d ever used. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as ‘real mayonnaise’. What had I been putting on my sandwiches for all these years?*
*An aside: Mayo goes on turkey and ham. Mustard goes on bologna and salami. Mayo, horseradish mayo, and/or spicy mustard go on roast beef. Pickle loaf goes in the trash. Sometimes you can put mayo and mustard on turkey, but you can never ever ever put mayo on bologna. That is just gross.
Sometimes – just sometimes – a person grows up to do something differently. I lost the mayonnaise war and now keep Hellman’s (for my west coast husband) in the fridge. I favor Utz potato chips over the Ruffles of my youth, and make my turkey and dressing completely different than my mama made it. It’s the mix of my childhood and the experiences of adulthood that make up the recipe of our family. I never get offended if a visiting child is less than enthusiastic about what I’ve made for supper, especially when I find out that it’s not how they make it at home. It’s those little things – the Dawn dish soap and Miracle Whip things – that keep a little bit of childhood with us forever.
But I still make better potato salad than you.