What is potato salad?
Potato salad is a popular side dish that comes in many different versions in many different parts of the world. In Southern Germany, it’s generally prepared with vinegar, potatoes, oil, mustard, vegetable broth, bacon bits, parsley, red onion and topped with chive and served warm. In Sicily, its made with string beans and red onion, and dressed with olive oil and vinegar.
In America, the following ingredients are popular:
cubed, boiled potatoes (typically russet potatoes), mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-like substitute such as yogurt or sour cream, yellow mustard and/or mustard powder (dry mustard), black pepper, salt, celery seed, sugar, dry dill, chopped pickles (pickled cucumber), chives, finely chopped red or white onion, chopped green or red bell pepper, thinly sliced/finely chopped celery and sometimes chopped hard-boiled egg whites (usually one egg per batch of salad)
I see. Are you a fan of potato salad?
Does a bear shit in the woods and wipe its ass with a rabbit?
Of course I’m a fan of potato salad.
What’s your favorite way to eat it?
Naked, in an empty living room, while reading The Bluest Eye and…
No, I mean which occasions do you enjoy eating it, and which foods do you enjoy eating it with the most?
Oh, ok. Well, I can eat potato salad year round. But it doesn’t get much better than being at a cookout with a reinforced paper plate full of swine, baked beans, and potato salad. Especially if the swine was grilled by an inappropriately attired man who everyone — even his own kids — calls “Unc” and the potato salad was made by a woman who has said “Don’t come in here smelling like the outside” at least 297 times.
Yes. There seems to be a inverse relationship between the quality of the grilled and/or smoked meat and the utter disregard of the man grilling and/or smoking the meat of the danger level of being near a 400 degree metal structure with flames shooting out of it. Basically, if he’s wearing flip flops and a tank top and can easily (easily!) trip and fall into a second degree burn, the meat will be amazing.
Okay. So I get why the meat is a big deal. Because meat is meat. But why is the potato salad such a thing? Why do people (and by people I mean “Black people”) seem to care about it so much?
So, all food exists somewhere on the taste variance scale. On one end of that scale would be pizza. The worst pizza you’ve ever had was probably still somewhat edible. And, there’s probably not much difference between the absolute best pizza you’ve ever had and the, I don’t know, 10th best pizza you’ve ever had. Basically, there’s not a ton of difference here between the absolute best and the absolute worst. At least not the same as it is with other foods.
On the other end of that scale would be potato salad. A perfect batch of potato salad will make you want to smack someone. A happy smack, but a smack nonetheless. A bad batch of potato salad will also make you want to smack someone. But this smack won’t be a happy smack. It’ll be an unhappy smack. An unhappy smack meant to injure. And then, after you’re done with the smacking, you’ll throw up. And then you might actually die.
Basically, the difference between good potato salad and bad potato salad is the difference between Biggie and Big Sean.
So basically, “pizza” = “how sex is for men” (not a ton of difference between “eh” and great) and “potato salad” = “how sex is for women” (a ton of difference between “eh” and great)?
I don’t like where this interview is going.
Okay. So, I get what you’re saying about the difference between good and bad potato salad, but you still haven’t explained why this is a thing for Black people.
Well, there are so many different ways to fuck up a batch of potato salad because it involves so many difference ingredients and there are so many different ways to make it. You can not boil the potatoes long enough. Or cut them into big-ass chunks. You can add too much — or too little — mayo and/or mustard. You can get too bougie and add raw kale, or get too hood and add three tablespoons of MD 20/20. Also, since prime potato salad making and eating season occurs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, temperature is an issue too. If you leave it sitting out in the sun too long and try eating it, you will die. Like, literally.
With all this to consider, the potato salad preparing duties are usually given to a person who has earned them. Because this process involves a measure of trust. And years of experience have taught us that potato salad made by someone named “Shirley” or “Big Frank” or “Eleanor” — someone Black enough and old enough to say things like “I went to the prom with Otis Redding” and “Criminal Minds is on” — is 17,000 times more likely to be better than the potato salad made by your three-appliance-owning fuck buddy and the “White friend who invited you to his family’s 4th of July cookout and asked you to sample this new potato salad recipe he found in the backseat of an Uber last week which probably means he doesn’t want to be friends with you anymore.”
Basically, if you want to know how appropriately Black an event happens to be, the single best gauge is a spoonful of potato salad.
Interesting. So, does every Black person over 50 know how to make potato salad?
Heavens no! Let me put it this way. If you went to any Black family’s cookout this summer, you’d find that there’s always one aunt or uncle missing, and 95% of the time, its due to one the following:
1) They weren’t invited because their potato salad made everyone sick last year
2) Their feelings were hurt last year when no one ate their potato salad
3) They’re currently in prison because someone said something about someone’s “runny-ass potato salad” last year, and they pulled out a shank