Great-Grandmother Murphy’s Potato Salad
This is, undoubtedly, the latter.
It is italicized and underscored, highlighted and bolded. It’s the type of potato salad that would wear white to another potato salad’s wedding, knowing full well how awesome it is and blithely unconcerned with how insignificant other side dishes may feel in its presence.
Because that’s the thing about Great-Grandmother Murphy’s Potato Salad. This is no mere side dish. No simple, dolloped afterthought on a summer menu.
It transcends taste. And time. It embodies emotion, history, tragedy, indulgence and memory itself. It is, in a word, elevated to the very pinnacle of the epicurean cosmos: entrée.
Or at least it is for me.
Hi, my name is Jon Schuller. And I’m a potato salad snob.
It feels good to admit it here, amongst foodie friends. The release! The acceptance. But now that I’ve got it off my chest, perhaps a little context on my spudtastic rhapsody?
Ever since I can remember, my mom’s potato salad has been that one, indefinable dish that has come to encapsulate my entire family’s raison d’être. For me, it represents summer and every gauzy, rose-tinted sight, sound and smell that goes with it: bare feet on wet grass, sparklers at twilight, barbeque smoke, piggy-back rides, scrapes, tears, joy, family and friends. For me, it’s is more than just potatoes, black olives, dill pickles and hard-boiled eggs.
Its tastes and smells run deeper than that. They’re in my blood.
In that place where a recipe isn’t just a recipe, but a piece of you that winds its way like some time-worn ribbon back through the family tree—through countless summers and endless family gatherings, through marriage, divorce, birth and death—into a strange and nebulous origin, printed on some dusty and yellowing recipe card, lost through the generations but always close to your heart.
It’s the dish that, when someone asks you about the first time you had it, you can’t remember. That’s because it’s been there all along, part of your own history. Part of you. Its genesis hiding somewhere within the folds of the family mythos, I guess.
Damn you, Great-Grandmother Murphy! *shakes fist dramatically*
SPOILER ALERT: Remember that scene in Ratatouille (yes, I just referenced a Pixar film) when the snooty critic tastes the titular creation at the end? Remember that moment of transcendence, that sublime and melancholic journey beyond ingredients and circumstance? That’s what I taste in this recipe.
And so, when asked to bring an all-American dish to our recent Sac Foodies Potluck (my first!), what the hell else was I going to bring?
Quick confesh: I was, however, a little torn on whether or not to share this edible heirloom with the internet (Hi, world!). But when I think about it, every person that’s ever tried it—including potato salad-haters—has been an evangelical convert.
(I know, I know. Who could hate potato salad? Heretics, that’s who!)
And so, if in some small way I can share with you my own family’s muddled and sun-dappled history within this summer staple, then so be it. Fair warning, this bears no resemblance to my lovely colleague’s healthy take on the dish. I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t healthy. This is, like, the opposite of that.
But it’s good, dear reader. Oh, sweet Jesus it’s good. So whether you’re on board for just a taste or, like me, a shameless shoveling-into-your-gullet, standing at-the-refrigerator-door-at-2 a.m. kind of person, then buckle up.
One taste and you’ll be like family.
Recipe: Great-Grandmother Murphy’s Potato Salad
- 8 large Russet potatoes
- 6 eggs
- One 22-ounce jar DelMonte dill pickle halves
- One 2.25-ounce can California black ripe olives, sliced
- 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons dill pickle juice
- 1 jar Best Foods Real Mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Paprika for garnish
- Wash potatoes and halve. Boil with skins until soft but still offer some resistance when stuck with fork. Remove from boiling water and rinse lightly in colander with cold water. Let cool.
- Hard-boil eggs. After boiling, immediately immerse in ice-cold water and refrigerate.
- Slice 4-5 pickle halves into half-inch pieces, set aside.
- When potatoes have cooled, carefully remove skins and discard. Rough cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes and place into large bowl.
- Remove eggs from water, peel, and chop into roughly 1-inch cubes. Add eggs to bowl.
- Add red wine vinegar and pickle juice to potatoes and eggs, distributing evenly.
- Add pickles and olives.
- Stir in three-quarters of a jar of Best Foods Real Mayonnaise (more or less to taste) and blend all ingredients thoroughly but not roughly.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle paprika on top, cover and refrigerate for five hours.