Tater Salad, Don't Skimp on the Love

Tater Salad, Don't Skimp on the Love

A while back, I posited that tater salad can heal an ailing heart. It is indeed a potent comfort food, up there with mac and cheese or meatloaf, and this is the perfect time to make it. The kitchen isn't so hot that you resent boiling water, but on a sunny afternoon, it's warm enough to delight in a cool spoonful of taters on your tongue.
For me, the dish comes with a bonus prize. It reminds me of Virginia Imogene Perdue, my momma's momma and a 1950's housewife who readily adopted the decade's central theme--convenience.
When you dined at Granny Perdue's house, the ham was canned, the biscuits were canned, the beans were canned, and the yams were canned. Heck, the rolls would have been canned if Winn Dixie sold them that way. Instead they were brown and serve (heavy on the "brown" because Granny never mastered the art of temperature control.)
No fuss cooking had an upside for us grandkids. As soon as Granny's cans were open and her instant pudding was mixed, she was down on all fours with us, racing Matchbox cars or outside, chasing a yard full of squealing youngins with a squirt gun. This was a woman who loved to play. In fact, she'd stand up adults--just leave them sitting at her dining table--if she heard us singing in the next room.
[caption id="attachment_5778" align="alignright" width="237"] Granny Perdue and me, 1977[/caption]
We relished Granny's attention, but we also knew our one boundary. She was not to be bothered if she had a potato in her hand.
See, tater salad was the only dish she made from scratch, and it required concentration. Getting the mix of mayo, relish, and egg right was tricky, so we sat by and watched, quiet as kitchen mice, while she chopped onions; we covered our ears when she revved up the hand mixer; and when it came time to taste, we lent our tongues like we were catching snowflakes.
Granny held a teaspoon full of tater salad in front of us and asked what we thought. If we tilted our heads, uncertain, or scrunched out noses, she immediately named the problem.
"Oh I see," she'd say, "Looks like there's not enough love in it."
We smiled and nodded, glad that we didn't have to tell her it needed pepper. She smiled and turned back to the counter, determined to get it right.
She did. Every time her tater salad turned out perfect--creamy and white with just a little bite; no mustard, because that would have been a cardinal sin in her house; and plenty of sliced egg on top.
My family has always said that it was her signature dish. Now it's one of mine.
Like Granny, I prioritize other things over cooking. I have the blog and short story writing, my job, family, friends, and my dog. Most of my meals come from boxes, but this weekend, I slowed down enough to cook.
Standing in my kitchen, peeling potatoes and chopping eggs, I realized something about my grandmother. Her generation felt that children are best seen but not heard. Other grannies shooed youngins from the kitchen with a swat on the behind, but not ours. She cleared the plates, spread out a board game when we showed up with one, and joined in the fun.
By my sink, a little weepy from the onions, I realized that yes, Virginia Imogene Perdue's tater salad was good, but being a grandmother was really her signature dish.


Granny Perdue's Tater Salad
4-5 large potatoes
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

2 hard boiled eggs, diced

1/2 of a large onion, diced
Mayo to taste
Relish to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the potatoes into two inch chunks and boil until soft. Drain and mash the potatoes until they're nearly smooth. Set aside the sliced eggs. Add all other ingredients to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Transfer to serving dish. Chill. Garnish with sliced eggs.