Potato Salad: a Southern Recipe

This week, I was going to write about an exciting new development in theoretical physics, in the area of the 4th dimension.

I know how much you guys love that stuff.

But I had to pull out my Stephen Hawking to brush up on the topic, and as it turns out, I’m having a devil of a time figuring out how to put it all in plain English. Maybe because I’m a bit fuzzy on it, myself.

So instead, this week, I’m going to talk about potato salad.

I haven’t written much about the 11 years my husband and I spent in Georgia, right after we got married, mostly because my immediate life is so immediate. But man, there are some good stories about that period, and how I wish I’d been writing, back then.

This isn’t a story, it’s just a few words about Miss Eva’s potato salad. And a recipe that encapsulates the South, for me.

In Georgia, whenever we had a potluck, or swim party, or Bible study, or anything else that required food (which is pretty much any occasion, in the South), all of us young people would beg for Miss Eva’s potato salad, because we liked it and because it was a comforting tradition. My husband, in particular, became quite fanatical in his devotion to Miss Eva’s signature dish.

Miss Eva grumbled, sometimes, about making it – but I think she liked the prestige it gave her, and she nearly always obliged.

It’s pretty hard to ruin potato salad, in my opinion, because…well…it involves potatoes, one of the most perfect foods to ever spring forth from Planet Earth. But if you press me, I’d say I prefer not to have tons of onion, or mustard, and I don’t like the chunks of potato to be so big that you have to break them up before eating them.

To each his own.

This isn’t a gourmet recipe: it’s simple to the point of plainness. It’s the one we like, is all. And (true story), sometimes I pull the recipe out at odd times and read through its genial cadences just because when I do, I hear those slow drawls again, and I feel the sticky weight of that summer air on my skin.

This is the voice of the South, and if you’ve ever spent time there, you’ll know what I mean.

Here, word for word, is the by-God recipe that Miss Eva’s daughter mailed to me after we’d moved back to Oregon – and I love the “recipe” almost as much as I love the salad.


Boil 5 lb bag of potatoes (red or regular, doesn’t really matter as long as they don’t look green, don’t use baking potatoes, buy one of those bags of smaller potatoes.) Boil them until they are done, but still firm when pierced with a fork, not to the crumbly mashed potato stage. Chill potatoes overnight in the fridge in a seal-proof Tupperware thing or even Ziploc bags if you don’t have a big enough bowl.


Boil 3 eggs, chop them up finely.

In a large bowl, chop up potatoes pretty small; the idea is to not have huge chunks of potato to swallow (tip: you may have to cut a few dark places off of them from being refrigerated but that’s normal and they will be fine.)

Add salt and pepper to taste, just good coverage of salt because un-salty potatoes are gross in potato salad and once it’s missed there’s not a lot you can do (don’t toss yet.)

Add finely chopped eggs (don’t toss yet.)

Add two heaping large spoonfuls of Blue Plate mayonnaise – by large spoon I mean one that barely fits in the mouth of the mayonnaise jar because it’s so big but not the kind you cook with (don’t toss yet.)

Add two pretty large spoonfuls of sweet pickle relish.

Now toss everything, just over and over like you were coating something until everything seems pretty mixed. Then do the Southern thing and taste it. If it’s too dry, add another big spoon of mayonnaise; if it needs more salt, add it. Most of the time I have to add mayonnaise, but I’m always afraid to start out with too much. I’d rather add more if I have to. That, my dear, is a bona-fide Southern recipe. My mother never measures anything, and it’s frustrating.



10 thoughts on “Potato Salad: a Southern Recipe

  1. awwww – awesome memories!! makes me want her potato salad right now. funny thing is that my dad tries occasionally to mess with the recipe. he’ll add vinegar or sour cream or something or other and sometimes he’ll add onions. every single time he does, our family takes a bite, then stares at him for a second like “have you lost your mind?” he promises to never try that again.

    thanks for sharing the story, cathy!! love you!

    • Aha! That’s awesome! I need to whip up another batch soon…we’ve been hankering for them.

      But truly…your “recipe” is priceless…and it’s the reason why I shared this. 🙂

      Love you too.

  2. I love the odd combination of topics here! You may find it hard to believe, but I am a youth minister who loves studying physics and biology (screw chemistry!)

    I found this blog thanks to Tamara Out Loud, I loved it, I will follow it!

    • Then we are twinsies…I adore science, but I, too, say “screw chemistry”!

      Are you on Twitter? If so, tell me your handle (if I’m not following you already.) If not…get yo’self over there. 🙂

      Thanks so much for clicking over and commenting…

  3. Yes, I’m joining the ‘thanks for choosing potato salad over Stephen Hawking’ club. 🙂 One partial sentence on your post jumped out at me. It is a wonderful example of your style of writing and also of the kind of thing which I like to come across because it appears so fluid and spontaneous.

    “…I hear those slow drawls again, and I feel the sticky weight of that summer air on my skin.”

    Love it.

    Also love potato salad. This one sounds especially good.

    • Thank you, my dear! Your encouragement means a great deal to me, always.

      This is a very good, basic potato salad, and we love it. I suppose one could add mustard, if one wanted…but I’ve never had it that way. 🙂

      Wish we could get together this summer for a cookout! I’d bring this…

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