Over the years my wife has come to realize that I like my potato salad the plain, old fashioned way.
It is prepared as follows: boil eggs and the potatoes whole and unpeeled. After boiling, drain and remove the skin from the potatoes, remove shells from the eggs, separate the whites and yolks, slice egg whites and mix with cut boiled potatoes. Next, mash egg yolks and mix with mustard, vinegar, mayonnaise, a little seasoning and stir all ingredients into the potatoes and egg whites. Do not add pickles or olives.
“Yes,” she answered, “but today I tried to make it like my grandmother made it, especially for Easter.” Grandmother made her salad as described above, but did not use mayonnaise. She didn’t have any. As a substitute she would use caramelized onions for her salads.
She didn’t have mayonnaise, because it was not sold in the rural stores and she seldom went to shop anyway. It was only after World War II that locals first started making homemade mayonnaise.
My first recollection of its use was when one of my aunts, who had married an American, began mixing egg yolks, lemon juice, a little salt, vegetable oil, and telling us how good it was for sandwiches and salads.
One of the few things I remember about my own grandmother at Easter time, besides pocking eggs, was her potato salad. It was not only tasty, but colorful as well, since she used dyed eggs left over from the pocking contests and the dye had gone through the shells and changed the whites to red, blue, yellow, purple, and green.
Preparation for her took a lot of time. Early in the morning she would go to the garden and scrape around several Irish potato plants with her bare hands. The soil in her garden was sandy, so it was not difficult to do, only time consuming. She would remove some of the larger potatoes, as much as she needed that day, and replace the soil around the potato plants. She would follow that process each day that she needed potatoes for salads, stews, smothering, soups and many other dishes
I remember her telling us that fresh potatoes were excellent for salad and buttered potatoes, but not for fries. Fresh potatoes would crumble to pieces when frying. For what she called pomme des terre frit, the potatoes needed to be cured for a few weeks.
During years when there was an abundance of potatoes, grandmother would dig up the remaining ones then place them in crates and store them in the patatrie.
For youngsters not familiar with a patatrie, it was an outdoor potato shed, usually built with cypress, with the cracks filled with mud. There was always hope that those stored potatoes would last until the fall crops and the fall crop would last until spring.
The larger Irish potatoes were used for cooking, but the smaller ones, the size of a golf ball or smaller, were kept for planting.
Happy Easter! Enjoy your potato salad and barbeque.
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