If you were lucky like we were, growing up in a huge family with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, you probably had your own version of our childhood. Large, noisy, sun-baked family get togethers.
They say that when you remember your childhood, most of your good memories are outside. Seems true and for me it certainly is.
The MacPherson side of my family always created reasons to get together. It could have been that we all didn’t have any other friends, or were too poor, but it probably was more simple than that, I think they all liked each other. After all we were family and no matter what happened in days or years past, we all loved each other. That is what was modeled for me as a kid. My mom, her brothers and sisters, their kids, their spouses and of course Grandma Betty all cared deeply for each other and always seemed to enjoy picnicking. They became affectionally known as Mac Attacks.
I remember early on my folks hosted some of these summertime parties at their home off of Nora and then I think they moved to my Uncle John and Aunt Nancy’s home out in the Spokane Valley. From there it could have been anywhere. Parks, rivers, lakes, wherever we could get the space. Big space, volleyball, toys, squirt guns, you name it.
But the food.
I may have mentioned before but I honestly don’t know if the food is good by any official standards but I know two things for sure as I look back on it. 1) it was good to me and 2) there was always lots of it.
My own mother used to bring “her” potato salad for several years and then she moved to a macaroni salad that became her feature dish. EVERYONE loved both so she kept making it.
When I was older and started to cook for myself, I asked her one day for the recipe of her potato salad because I had tasted so many other versions and they never measured up to her tangy and creamy salad. She chuckled to herself and was shocked I thought so highly of it (as many others did as well) and then admitted something that blew me away (and now you will know why I put “mom” and “her” in quotes), she said she just took the BETTY CROCKER base recipe and made just one tweak! She added pickles! Seriously. I couldn’t believe it. I thought she spent years developing, crafting, and tweaking some master recipe that was passed down from the legendary Davenport Hotel, or her great-grandma or even an obscure recipe from a newspaper clipping would somehow have made sense, but no, it came from her beat up, binder-broke you-can’t-miss-it red Betty Crocker cookbook.
Once I recovered, I didn’t care. I didn’t care because it not only tasted great but brought up so many memories of her, my childhood, and my family.
I now make it several times a summer and my wife and kids love it as much as we did.
Obviously we would make a triple batch or more to feed so many people but here is the base.
“Mom’s” Potato Salad
1 1/2 pounds red, white or yellow potatoes
1 1/2 cups mayo
1 T cider vinegar (you could use white)
1 T yellow mustard
1 t kosher salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 kosher dills, chopped
4, hard boiled eggs and chopped
Peel potatoes (or don’t).
Place potatoes in pan and cover with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and let simmer for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat, strain out water.
Meanwhile assemble the rest of the ingredients.
Cut into quarters (I like odd shaped spuds) while still warm because the dressing will adhere better with the warm, starchy potato.
Stir aggressively and optional paprika and additional sliced eggs for presentation (taste too).