A few posts ago I shared my mother-in-law’s potato salad recipe. So many memories about my husband’s mom surround that one simple dish. You can only imagine how many memories surround my own mother’s cooking. I could write an entire book about them … hum … maybe I will.
But for today, I want to share her recipe for potato salad. A dish that always signified “Summer!” for me, because everything she used came straight from her garden. And unlike the Southwest, which has at least two gardening seasons, in the prairies of Canada the only time one can have a garden is in summer – June, July and August. Done.
On the farm, in the early days of her life, married with children, my mom kept a huge garden. Everything from potatoes to corn, lettuce, peas, radishes, onions, carrots, beans – you name it. We ate these fresh every day for meals, plus she cold-stored root vegetables and canned jars and jars of peas, beans and corn for use during the winter.
When my family moved to the city, she dug up half of our back yard to keep a vegetable garden. Our neighbors were astounded that she would do such a thing, make all that work for herself when fresh produce could be purchased at the grocery store. But, surely, they did not realize what it is like to eat a fresh spring scallion, dipped in salt, with a mouthful of new mashed potatoes. Or, the thrill of pulling a slender, young carrot from the earth, wiping the dirt from its brilliant orange on your pant leg, then crunching it fresh and juicy down to its green top, or popping pea shells and tonguing those little, green gems into your mouth.
Now, at almost 90 years of age, my mother still loves to see leaf lettuce grown into luscious clusters, watch the green tops of radishes poke up through the earth. She walks along the rows of my sister’s garden to check the ripeness of tomatoes, the size of cucumbers, picking a weed here and there. And nobody I know strips string beans from a plant like she can.
On Monday, which was Memorial Day, American tradition demands that everyone partake of a meal of burgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob and potato salad. So, of course, we complied (less the hot dogs this year, as there was only my husband and me … and two people can only eat so much food).
When I started to think about making a potato salad, I got such a hankering for the kind my mom used to make, and still does to this day. Unfortunately, the ingredients came from the grocery store rather than fresh from the garden, but all the wonderful flavors came through, just as I remember from my youth.
Mom’s Potato Salad
5 – 6 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered *
6 scallions, finely chopped
6 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced
2 heaping T of mayonnaise
2 heaping T of yogurt
1 t of white vinegar
Salt (I used Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt) & Pepper, to taste
Good dashes of garlic and onion powders (optional … I do, but Mom didn’t)
2 hard-boiled eggs
4 small leaves of leaf lettuce (red or green) sliced and diced into approximately 2-inch squares)
Boil potatoes until just fork tender. Drain and let cool completely.
Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces and put in a salad bowl. Add scallions and radishes. Mix in the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar and seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Just before serving, taste and add more seasoning if desired. Then chop eggs, leaving a few slices for garnish, and add to the potato mixture. Fold in gently. Do the same with the lettuce.
Place slices of egg on top for garnish and serve!
Note: * I prefer white potatoes rather than red for this salad. It’s just how my mom made it and so that’s the way I like it. But if you prefer red, purple, gold … or whatever … be my guest!
My memories of summer on the farm are rich and very sweet. I’d like to share with you a poem about one of those moments I still hold close to my heart. It is from my yet unpublished collection, The Alchemy of Breath.
The clock echoes
from the kitchen.
I sit, small, blond
hair falling loose.
My bare feet kick, one-two,
against the box spring,
as I finger nubs of chenille.
Outside the bedroom window
birds trill and swoop in a sky
edged with pines and poplars
tilted by the wind.
In tall grass, the black dog
sniffs a trail to where
bends to weed the garden,
the back of her skirt
lifting in a sudden breeze.
How white her bare legs are …
Two flies buzz at the window
I tap, whispering shoo …
and I wave back.
I hope you enjoyed the poem … and please try my mom’s potato salad for your next summer meal.
Eat well. Be happy.