Sunday, 21 October 2012

Potato Salad

I suspect that this is a topic to which I will return.

The following recipe is taken from the family recipe book, most of which was written by my mother but this particular entry is in my handwriting, and I calculate that I would have been aged about nine at the time.

"Peel 5 large potatoes, chop them up into quarters (or smaller if desired). Boil them for about 20 minutes. MAYONNAISE: Cup of olive oil, two eggs, salt, pepper in dish. Beat eggs while slowly putting olive oil in. Stir vigorously. When very thick, shake salt and pepper over then mix with potatoes."

Some sentimental commentary: in the original, I can't spell potatoes (like Vice-President Quayle), nor mayonnaise. I have forgotten to separate the eggs. The word "slowly" is double-underlined and I wonder how many times I had experienced curdling at the time I wrote that down.

The first time I remember eating potato salad of any description was in St Giles's Hospital in South London (now closed), at the age of about eight when I had a foot operation. I did not like hospital food, with the exception of the fish and chips which, I was told, was the best thing on the menu. Served on Friday. My operation was on a Friday so nil by mouth, and I was discharged on the following Thursday.

In the absence of the fish and chips or anything else I wanted to eat, my mother would bring in dishes of food from home: potato salad and curry were both things I asked for. The potato salad would arrive in a blue and white china rectangular dish. On one visit, it was left at home and I complained bitterly.

About twelve years later, when I was under the same surgeon but in a different hospital (King's College, in Camberwell), it was dishes of potato salad again, and something else which we had discovered in the intervening years, called Aloo Chat. For the next entry.

Much more to say about the many different versions of potato salad I know (ranging from the sublime to the truly disgusting). And mayonnaise is a separate topic in itself.

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