Memorial Day is fast approaching. Five days and counting. A time to reflect upon the collective sacrifice made by countless servicemen and women throughout the history of this great nation. A time to recognize our past and present soldiers for their valiant efforts in wars here and abroad. A day reserved for flags, parades and formal remembrances.
However (and shameless as it sounds), I can think of nothing but potato salad right now, and how it has been an integral part of nearly every Memorial Day celebration in my life. As a kid, I remember sitting on a sun-drenched curb in the center of town, waving one of those tiny flags on a stick as my hometown marching band, dressed in spats and scratchy woolen suits, passed by, their irksome hats slipping ever so slightly over their faces—the ones reddened by both the morning sun and the furious pace. There were gleaming fleets of fire trucks, too, in all their glory, and massive floats that inched by, their crepe paper skirts flowing in the breeze—floats from which an obscene quantity of candy was ceremoniously launched, sending kids scurrying into the street to gather it by the fistful.
Indeed, the parades of my youth always seemed grand, but they were nothing compared to the annual picnic that would follow. In my mind, of course, it was all about the potato salad. The rest was just fluff—perfunctory trimmings that merely served to round out the meal on that special Monday in May. I knew what truly mattered. It was the potato-y goodness contained within my summertime favorite. So what if summer had yet to officially arrive. It was the consummate medley of onion, celery and carrots—perfectly infused with mustard and mayonnaise, pepper and eggs. Mom’s specialty. Now mine.
For the most part, I’ve adapted to the role, however, it has not come to this household without fits of passionate debate. That said, a select few (who will remain nameless, to protect and preserve their flawed views) believe that the aforementioned vegetables ought to be diced into chunks so impossibly small as to be rendered invisible. Naturally, one might question how effectively the flavors could then be enjoyed; never mind the nearly negated crunch factor. There are certain individuals, too, who would dare suggest that Miracle Whip is somehow comparable to Hellmann’s—the thought of which I find purely sacrilegious. Still others refuse to partake at all if it is rumored that a solitary Spanish olive has touched a morsel of the mix, insisting, instead, that I include sweet pickle relish—an unconscionable act in my mind. As a result (and to appease the whimsical nature of the crowd), I often get strapped with the tedious task of making SEVERAL ENTIRELY DIFFERENT POTATO SALADS. Ugh.
But I digress.
It’s almost Memorial Day and I couldn’t be happier to be on the cusp of summer, poised to embark upon a season of picnics and the endless pursuit of fireflies. Of course, anyone can make potato salad at any time of year. Even in January for Pete’s sake. But who would want to? It flies in the face of tradition and would likely anger the Gods of Outdoor Feasts. I, for one, rarely tempt fate in that manner—content, instead, to stick with that which is customary and perhaps unobjectionable to the masses.
Aside from the great anticipation with which I approach the coming holiday (since I am certain it will involve the deliciousness of potato salad made to my liking), I recently discovered TWO MORE reasons to celebrate the culinary goodness of summertime.
Firstly, May is National Hamburger Month, which of course fills me with the irresistible desire to race straight to Tony’s Deli, where the best burgers on the planet assemble en masse. Seriously. There is a succulent quality about them that is almost beyond description. Secondly, May is also National Salsa Month, which quite possibly explains all the trips to Ozzie and Mae’s Hacienda these past few weeks, where I’ve felt compelled to gorge on homemade salsa and tortilla chips. Olé! All in all, May is shaping up to be a positively delectable month, methinks.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (in praise of potato salad). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.
Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel