I get this sort of arrogance when it comes to cooking. I use recipes as references only and feel like I can do it better than the recipe writer. That, somehow, I can improve upon the original intention of the dish. With a dish like simple old-fashioned potato salad, it seems a shame to not add bacon or pesto or sprinkle the top with paprika. Liven it up somehow. But this recipe doesn’t call for any of that.
My arrogance extends to my cooking methods. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents last summer. At the beginning of summer they announced they were moving into an assisted living facility in Duluth, about 5 hours away from me. Their decision to move so far away broke me a bit. I spent as much of the summer with them as I possibly could to try to help them get things squared away and just to spend some time with them before it became more difficult for me to do so. When I was up there once, my mom, grandma and I were all in the kitchen together cooking dinner. I cut some potatoes and got them into a pan to boil them for potato salad or something. I started to add water and was immediately scolded by my grandma for using too much water. Apparently, I had been doing it wrong for nearly 30 years, according to grandma. “There is no need to waste so much water, just put a little water in the pan and let those potatoes steam.” My mom stated that she always used a lot of water, but then used the potato water for other things like soups or breads. That was the same summer I was informed that I was middle-aged and reminded that I don’t know everything even if I walk around like a know-it-all. I think about that every time I boil potatoes now and never put too much water in unless I have plans for the extra water.
When I was prepping this recipe, I realized that the can of evaporated milk I thought I had was actually sweetened condensed milk. This is where smart phones are handy. I learned that evaporated milk can actually be made in at least two ways. You can actually reduce about 2 ¼ cups of milk on the stove top until it’s 1 cup, or the much faster way is to make double strength milk from milk powder. I tried the first, but realized that it was going to take much longer than I felt like I had. I pulled the milk and will use it to make cocoa for the kids later.
Most delis have at least three varieties of potato salad on hand at all times because potato salad can be so many things. In the book Consuming Passions by Michael Lee West, she dedicates an entire chapter to potato salad. Her mother has very definite ideas as to what potato salad should be and what it should not be. My opinions on it are not nearly as strong as hers. However, I do like my potato salad to have enough crunch and enough ingredients in it that not every bite is exactly the same. And this is that sort of potato salad. It’s classic, the eggs provide a nice texture. It’s the perfect kind of mushy without being sludge. It’s sweet and would be great with fried chicken or BBQ meats. It tastes like summer.