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‘Darling child, please.’  Here are 5 foods you should never put in potato salad


Why would anyone ruin a perfectly good potato salad – or barbecue – with this stuff?

“Who brings the salad?

When someone in my family asked this question, it meant one thing: “Who brought the potato salad?” No macaroni salad. No pasta salad. No green salad. (I didn’t even know green salad was a thing until I was about 20.)

Photo: Adobe Stock

Potato salad is a staple at any barbecue, and with summer in full swing, you can expect to see this dish in abundance. Why? Because according to a survey, potato salad is the second most popular baking dish, behind baked beans.

A good potato salad has few ingredients, like mayonnaise, eggs, a little mustard, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and maybe a secret ingredient or two that aunt has as well used (and refused to tell anyone, including his children, who could only see the recipe after his death). And if you’re in charge of the salad, you better bring your A-game. Not, “better bring” or “hope to bring”; better bring, which as we all know is as bad as it gets.

‘Darling child, please.’  Here are 5 foods you should never put in potato salad
Nice Creamy Potato Salad (Alpha, Flickr Creative Commons)

But every once in a while, someone tries to up their potato salad game, only to end up with “what a fool…” instead, in a tone you only hear if you forget to say ” Amen” after the preacher. I am here to help you. To avoid the “what a fool”, make sure you don’t add any of these items to your potato salad.

Nut: Remember the first rule of potato salad. He doesn’t crack. There are some candle recipes out there that call for nuts and it’s just, well, nuts. If you want to get a whole bunch of people’s attention (and suffer embarrassment when no one touches what’s in that bowl), then by all means add some nuts. I would avoid it. Me, I respect the rule of “no nuts of any kind”.

Raisins/dried cranberries: When I was a child, my grandmother and my aunt (his sister) each used these phrases when I did something stupid. My grandmother: “Boy, are you mine?” (When she said it, she cut the ‘d’ from the “spirit,” so it sounded like “mine.”) My aunt: “Honey, please.” When their voices started to go up an octave, I knew I was in big trouble. I went to a party recently and someone put raisins in a potato salad, and I heard the voices of my grandmother and my aunt converging in my head. “You are mine, honey, please.” Yes, it was that bad, looking like a bunch of rabbit turd mixed with salad. Side eyes time.

‘Darling child, please.’  Here are 5 foods you should never put in potato salad
Snacks ? Yes. Potato salad? No. (Jenn Durfey, Flickr Creative Commons)

Fruit: Fruit is good on a hot summer day. Peaches. Plums. Cherries are my favorite. Fruit does not go in the salad. So imagine how puzzled I was when a friend told me there was a pineapple potato salad. (Editor’s Note: Why???) I thought he made it up, until I discovered, to my surprise, that it was true. Not only is this true, but there is also a raging debate over whether you should grill the pineapple first or just use canned diced fruit. OMKAlen of ElenTube fame said it best when he saw pineapple in this beloved dish. “It’s not a potato salad.” Or as my aunt would say, Honey, please.

‘Darling child, please.’  Here are 5 foods you should never put in potato salad

Looks tasty but not in a potato salad (David Loong, Flick Creative Commons)

Pickles: I’m a salad purist and like it basic, although a little flavor might be fine. Pickles are tiny, tart pickles made from pickles, which I once thought were mythical creatures. Pickles are made from mini cucumbers. So now you know all the reasons why you shouldn’t use pickles in your salad. It really is a cucumber – and you wouldn’t put a whole cucumber in your salad, would you? The pickles are too tart – and no one will have extra little pickles if you need them at the last minute, because they won’t know what it is.

Peas. South African potato salad recipes call for peas. I’m certainly not going to denigrate anyone’s cultural preferences, but, You’re mine ? Peas are rumored to be good for certain things, although I don’t know what. But I can think of what peas are not good for: putting them in a salad. Of everything on this list, polka dots would be my least favorite. I just can’t imagine picking up a good fork of creamy salad and biting into a vegetable that I was flushing down the toilet to convince my mom that I really ate them. That leaves just one more element.

Cheese. Cheese goes with potatoes, whether they’re baked, scalloped, or pan-fried. Chunks of cheese (or shredded cheese, for that matter) have no place in a potato salad. It takes the taste away, especially when someone is trying to get fancy and use gorgonzola, which is a blue cheese, which stinks of your feet. Cheese in salad mixes as well as Kim Kardashian and Kanye. Just keep them away.

‘Darling child, please.’  Here are 5 foods you should never put in potato salad

Ray Marcano

Ray Marcano is a longtime, award-winning journalist who has written and edited for some of the nation’s most prominent media brands. He is the past National President of the Society of Professional Journalists, a two-time Pulitzer Juror and a Fulbright Fellow.

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