Potato Salad and the Greek Isles

Potato salad has been in my culinary repertoire for about fifty years and, fortunately, most of my family like my potato salad.  It’s nothing like the stress-laden potato salad my mother made.  When I became a married lady some 48 years ago, I wanted to cook for my family and potato salad is a summer thing.  My mother turned all cooking projects into major productions that took way too long and usually involved her becoming angry with everyone around and somehow blaming them because she wanted to make something.

There are many ways to wind up with a big bowl of potato salad.  I do the old fashioned hard boiled eggs, pickle relish, onions, potatoes, celery salt and seed, pepper, dill, mustard, mayonnaise, a dash of 1000 Island dressing and refrigerate for a couple of days before the event so everything gets a chance to get acquainted and develop flavor.  My cookbook is loaded with potato salad recipes from magazines and the newspaper, but I’m afraid there will be mutiny if I deviate from the old familiar salad we all know and love.

Several years ago, my live-in potato salad aficionado and I went to Greece with some friends and chartered a yacht which came with a crew including a very handsome captain who came to dinner each night wearing an impeccable white uniform with much gold braid.  He was charming and knew his islands, many of which we visited.  There were crew members who ran the boat, cleaned our cabin… and a chef.  Oh, our chef!  His galley, in full view of everyone at all times, was the size of a computer workstation.  He created wonders in there, baked goods fresh every day, omelets so light you had to hold them down.  We were served fish so fresh it was still wiggling.  And potato salad.  He made potato salad.  Small red potatoes, chopped scallions, chopped egg, capers, and Greek olive oil.  He only used Greek olive oil and was openly scornful of anything from Italy.  His potato salad was served warm and I have never once had the courage to try it, feeling that my weak attempt would be sort of like trying to duplicate Michelangelo’s David with play dough.

The captain took us on lunchtime excursions to his favorite restaurants on various islands where he would reassure us, “just a few little plates of food… nothing much…and the cook…she is woman, but the food is still good!”  We would get little plates of food, all right, dozens of them, each with some Greek delicacy that we might have had or heard of in the ordinary, non-Greek world, but we had never had calamari until we had it in Greece.  Tzatziki, tabbouleh, hummus, we wallowed in these familiar delicacies.  But the fish!  Ahhh! and the potato salad.  The stuff that dreams are made of!  Efcharisto, Captain, we’ll never forget you!  Nor you, either Mr. Chef!

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