Hold the Mayo

My stepsister, when she wasn’t trying to drown me or stealing my stuffed animals, used to eat bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches on Wonder bread. Sometimes– just mayo on Wonder bread! Gross, right? While I can’t profess that kind of love for mayonnaise, I do like it in specific food situations, like on dry turkey sandwiches, or mixed into tuna. I like it in my grandmother-in-law’s potato salad and lightly on most deli sandwiches. I really like it on French fries. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it! I mean, if you have, like everybody else in Fresno, fallen in love with that cilantro and jalapeño aioli restaurants pair with sweet potato fries, then don’t judge me for dipping my fries in some Best Foods, okay?

My husband and daughter, however, are totally grossed out by mayonnaise and most cream sauces. Even puddings! I don’t know what their deal is. At first I thought my husband was just a picky eater, and once I got irate when he refused to try a rice pudding I’d made that had turned out very well. But now that my daughter is around, she hates all the same stuff, too! It’s like some sort of genetic marker. Scientists should test for that. I’m sure it’s a very specific bit of a gene that causes this. Eye color, hair color, gender, and whether or not they are grossed out by mayo.

A few days ago, my husband put this post on my Facebook page. It’s one of our favorite sites, because it is simply and stubbornly Greek. There are a lot of Greek people in Fresno– but no Greek restaurants! I can go on a tirade about this, but I won’t. I will just say that if I want Greek food that isn’t from a wonderful but only once-a-year festival, I have to make it myself.

I realized I could make that potato salad (or my family’s version of it) with my eyes closed, because that was the only kind of potato salad I’d ever eaten when I was growing up. At my grandmother’s house, mayonnaise was mostly reserved for egg salad or tuna sandwiches– or to put on tomatoes. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t gross me out? It was a specialty item. And for some reason, my Nona stockpiled it in the sun room behind her bedroom. My grandmother told my five year old self that it was the kind of thing that never expired, and that I shouldn’t be snooping in my Nona’s bedroom. Now I have to wonder, why stockpile mayo? Anyway.

True confessions time: I didn’t use the Olive Tomato site’s recipe. I made it the way I’d learned how– but with a few alterations. When I was six, my mom had a wicked bout of Crohn’s disease, and as a result, most of my family stopped using garlic, onions, and black pepper when my mom and I were eating. But my mother used to tell me “wild” stories of how Nona used to use two whole cloves of garlic in spaghetti, could you imagine?! Of course now I use three all the time and don’t even blink an eye. I also managed to marry a Swedish-ish boy who eats greens, uses olive oil almost exclusively, loves olives and feta as a meal, and bought a pressure cooker just so he could make lentils and chickpeas– and I didn’t even have to marry a Greek! Oh! She would have been so happy! Ha!

This morning, my daughter requested Greek potato salad for lunch, so I declare potato salad as being re-Greekified in this house. Let’s draw up some paperwork for that, shall we? Here’s the recipe.

— Bake, boil, pressure cook or steam at least five russets or a whole bag of red potatoes. Fingerlings are yummy, too. Really, any potato except for yams or sweet potatoes will work. No peeling necessary.

–When they are fully cooked and still warm, cut them into slightly larger than bite sized pieces and toss them into a bowl. A little crumbliness is fine.

–Squeeze one whole, smallish lemon over them all. In a pinch, wine vinegar will work. Try to find a lemon, though.

–Salt liberally. I use about a teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

–Rub some dried oregano and spearmint over the bowl, too. Not a lot. I only used a few pinches of each.

–Pepper? Why not!

–Mince two garlic cloves and toss them in.

–Finely chop some chives or green onions or shallots if you have them. Red, white and yellow onions are a bit too pungent for me, but if that’s the taste you like, why not? But I’d rather not have onions, personally, if all I had were the tearjerker types.

–Last but not least, drizzle a whole lot of olive oil over it all. At least a quarter cup. The potatoes soak it up– but drizzle liberally and taste it until A) you are full, B) it tastes right, or C) both.

I will add a picture when I am done making it again. It’s tasty warm or cold, and no one gets food poisoning. Everybody wins!

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2 thoughts on “Hold the Mayo

  1. I used to work at this deli in college that was new on campus, and it had the best potato salad I ever had – red potatoes with some chiffonade basil in a lemon vinaigrette. My boss called it a Greek potato salad, and I’ve come up with my own version since then, very similar to your recipe above. Most people really like it, except for the person I want to impress most, who doesn’t like mayo in any circumstance, and won’t eat this potato salad, or any kind of composed salad unless it’s his mom’s mustard potato salad. Hmph. More for me I guess.

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