Sunday, July 5, 2009

Keillor gets it right

Potato Salad is NOT Ice Cream

Garrison Keillor's latest commentary is on potato salad and he nails it. I, too, went to a July 4 potluck and found, among the chips and guacamole, crackers and cheese, carrots and celery sticks, pork and beans and fried spring rolls, buckets of over-mayonnaised goop containing finely diced potatoes and some other stuff mostly added for color. This stuff passes for potato salad in grocery stores and delis these days.

Keillor observes:

The eerie-yellow store-bought stuff in the tubs was manufactured at Amalgamated Salad in Houston by undocumented 12-year-olds from the hills of Michoacan. Worse, it is teaching our children that accomplishment doesn't matter.

A child served yellow slop from a bucket is being told that it's OK to plagiarize a term paper off the Internet just so long as it's poorly written.

He then gives the basics for real potato salad: "Take half an hour away from your Facebook page and do the job right. Boil some eggs, chop the celery and chives and green onions, boil the potatoes, make your mayonnaise, maybe toss in a little sour cream, use plenty of dill, and sprinkle paprika on top." To that I would add some dill pickle and a dollop of mustard (dijon or spicy brown), and probably take out the chives.

Myriad reasons exist for the promulgation of crappy potato salad, not the least of which is at most Americans will put up with anything that has too much mayonnaise in it. But one culprit is the ice cream scoop. Old fashioned potato salad is chunky and you have to use a big spoon to get it out of the bowl and a small spoon or fork to pull it off the big spoon and onto the plate. But sometime in, I think, the 70s, though maybe earlier, deli counters figured out they could more efficiently transfer potato salad from one container to another with an ice cream scoop, if the salad was modified to something with the consistency of rocky road ice cream. And out went the big chunks of potato and the halves of hard boiled eggs and celery slices big enough to crunch. Thus potato salad became tasteless and bland.

So you ask, why didn't I bring real potato salad to this potluck? I guess I should have, but I decided there would be plenty of starchy salads (potato and pasta), and opted to bring real cole slaw instead. Not the ice cream scoop variety, but slaw with coarse cut cabbage, chunks of apple and onion and a few diced pepperoncini tossed in for spice.

Rule of thumb: other than ice cream, food should not be dishable with an ice cream scoop.

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