Padded walls and potato salad

Does homemade potato salad ever get the praise it deserves? Never! 😋

Why can’t a person work on their mental health and eat homemade potato salad at the same time? Who says it can’t be done? That’s what I’d like to know.

There’s this weird notion that mental health woes exist outside of the scope of whatever is normal, or that dealing with psychological problems can’t coincide with more enjoyable things, like say, making potato salad.

Pounding on padded walls constrained by a straight jacket, that’s the typical image, eh? People in haunted-house, turn-of-the-century type asylums, locked up and forgotten by everyone except for Dr. E. Vil Experimentum.

No no no, thank God in the heavens above we are moving past all that! That would have been my fate in those days, no doubt.

Why can’t a person be a crazy and also love to cook and bake—it doesn’t always have to be painting or writing. Why can’t it also be scrapbooking or rock climbing or something?

My point is, we all have degrees of normalcy and abnormalcy, right?

Sometimes a person needs to just push themselves into doing the things they want and need to do in life in order to boost their own mental wellbeing. My own way of doing this, this week, involved making potato salad, amongst other mental-health-boosting endeavors.

Making Potato Salad—JoAnn Ryan
Fresh, hard-boiled eggs—JoAnn Ryan
Choppin’ pickles and a gratin’ onion—JoAnn Ryan

The Joy of Homemade Potato Salad!

I fully admit in the past I suffered from tunnel vision when it came to potato salad. If it wasn’t my family’s exact recipe, I simple didn’t want it!

And that store bought sh*t? As far as I was concerned, you could toss it directly in the toilet and flush. No need to be a middle man… woman.

I’ve slowly been coming out of that fog. A few years ago now, I was reading Jacques Pepin’s tremendously awesome autobiography, “The Apprentice”, in which he provides the recipe for “Warm Potato Salad.” It was so absolutely fabulous, both the autobiography and the recipe!

Not too surprising, one can easily find the recipe online now, and there’s even a YouTube video of Jacques Pepin making it! “I just love potato salad!” says he. Love it!

Making Mom’s Potato Salad—JoAnn Ryan
Making Mom’s Potato Salad—JoAnn Ryan

I always thought the potato salad my mother made was unlike any other—a family recipe handed down from my grandmother, great-grandmother and who really knows how far back.

That is, until I moved to Florida and encountered the New York Style Potato Salad offering from Publix Supermarket. I decided to try it and couldn’t believe it. It was literally the exact same taste as I’d grew up eating! Funny too, as I’d lived in the NYC metro area for nearly four years before moving to Florida, but never encountered the New York Style Potato Salad until I came to Florida. For weird!

Mom’s Potato Salad—JoAnn Ryan

Briefly, I pondered on the origin of potato salad. It’s thought to be German. No surprise. My grandmother’s ancestors were mostly German. No need to recount the entire history here when you can check out this interesting offering from NPR: “Rethinking Potato Salad“.

Grandma’s Potato Salad

Keep in mind, this recipe was never written down until I came along and broke the chain. Coming up with exact measurements was difficult, but I did attempt it.

  • 4 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded carrot (depending on how much you like carrot)
  • 1/4 cup, or so, diced dill pickles (depending on how much you like dill pickles)
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons finely grated onion (depending on… you get it!)
  • A few squirts of mustard
  • A few shakes of garlic powder
  • Mayonnaise, just enough to coat everything nicely
  • For the first time ever, I decided to add one hard-boiled egg, chopped
  • Salt to taste

Firstly, you can peel the potatoes beforehand or after they’ve boiled and cooled, which ever you prefer. Either way, you will want to slice the potatoes roughly 1/2 inch thick (see the first photo above). Cover the sliced potatoes with water and set them to boil until they are fork tender. Take care not to over-boil them as you do not want mashed potatoes.

Allow the potatoes to cool enough so you can handle them without getting burned. Peel off the skin if you didn’t beforehand and then cut them into smaller bite-size chunks. Add the carrots and the pickles (I like a lot of the latter, picky husband not so much) but do not stir them in yet. Over-stirring can be the kiss of death for potato salad, as it can make the potatoes mushy.

Add the onion, making sure to grate it with a fine grater. Do not chop the onions, as the taste will not come out the same. Trust me!

Add in a goodly few squirts of mustard, maybe like a tablespoon or two. Shake in the garlic powder–if you prefer to measure, about a 1/2 teaspoon should work nicely.

Adding in chopped hard-boiled egg is purely optional–my family might just jump out of their graves and shoot me for this, but oh well. There’s a risk in everything.

Add in enough mayo to coat everything nicely and sprinkle with salt to taste. Stir gently–I use a pliable silicon spatula for this–adding in more mayo and salt, if needed.

That’s it. Cooling it in the fridge for 24 hours brings it to it’s optimum flavor, but alas, that takes patience doesn’t it?

If you don’t feel like making it and you’re lucky enough to have a Publix nearby–in Orlando there’s one on every block or so, it seems–go ahead and try their New York Style Potato Salad, which you can typically find in the deli section.

I’m in the process of obtaining my official transcript from my alma mater. Ordering my transcript is the first big step in dealing with the problem I discussed in my last post: “No amount of healthy food can quell old haunting memories.” Please go back and read it if you’re bored and confused. Don’t feel like rehashing it all!

Here’s a “friend link” to a recent post of mine on Medium, which ended up being popular with people: “From Trinidad With Love: Beautiful Bougainvillea.” If the friend link does not work please let me know. Thanks!

Hope everyone is doing well!

Looking forward to catching up with everyone as long as the internet stays on. It’s been going down off and on the last week or so. As locals here in TT like to say, “this is a 10th world country.” Ha ha! Their words not mine. I just try and roll with it.


17 thoughts on “Padded walls and potato salad

  1. I love potato salad. I believe it’s German in origin as are hamburgers and hotdogs. I lived there for many years. All my German friends made it from scratch too. First boiling the potatoes and then peeling them and always adding juicy gherkins! Cooking is good therapy. When I first became disabled I dealt with the mental trauma by crafting, sewing and baking lots of cup cakes. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh cupcakes are great for mental health, baking them especially. I need to get into doing more crafting. I used to love it a long time ago before my life fell apart.

      Well, I do hope you are doing better now with the mental trauma. Germany sounds lovely. Hopefully I will get the chance to visit sometime.

      Thanks for the comment! I appreciate it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ummm…Tater salad, as we southerners say. I’ve always had it with chopped egg and sweet pickle relish, but hold the carrot, that’s for coleslaw! Now I’m craving some…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha. Sweet pickle relish sounds like an interesting addition. Might have to try that instead of the dill pickle sometime, plus it’s already chopped. Win, win! 😋

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’d better believe cooking is wonderful therapy, JoAnn! No matter whether “mere” everyday stresses assail you, or if the problems are more oppressive, plating your creation in triumph provides more relief than does the most comfortable therapist’s couch.

    A principle your latest creation demonstrates. Both your writing and your photography testify to this – con spirito. I love the dish’s aesthetics, with its soft yet distinctive colors, as well as the family history which accompanies. How cathartic it must’ve been to plan, prep and assemble everything. You took us along with you too. Thanks for that.

    It doesn’t surprise me Publix’s entry was a cut above other supermarket attempts you had tried. Stopping by the stores when visiting my grandparents in Florida always impressed me. Positively. In fact, aside from assertively upscale – and thus, uncommon – places like Whole Foods and Wegman’s, Publix is the best out there.

    Oh, my ancestral potato salad also bears the “German” label, though it differs considerably from your version. In fact, the potato is the only thing both have in common. Add bacon, a little bacon fat, fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper et voila – there you go!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, well that sounds delicious. Hopefully your family potato salad recipe will make the cut for a future post… can’t go wrong with bacon! Ever!

      Do they have a Wegman’s in PA? There used to be one we frequented in New Jersey. I have to say though some of the fresh food at Publix is hard to beat, even by Wegmans. The fried chicken and deli sandwiches are awesome as well.

      Preparing food is definitely cathartic for me. All the other preparations surrounding it are great too, as I’m sure you can relate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, a few Wegman’s have found a home in the commonwealth, though none is terribly close. At least not yet.

        Food prep soothes stress, and it boosts confidence. Not only for managing successfully a complex process, but in surprising yourself with your artistic flourishes.

        I reckon photography encourages the same satisfaction, no? Now…combine the two. See?

        Yes, Lucy, the Psychiatrist (Dr. Ryan) is In.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Looks good JoAnn, but hold the pickles for me thanks – I hate pickles with a passion! And yes, Trinidad can definitely be a 10th world country when it comes to certain things – but when it comes to all the wrong and bad things, they are right up there with the 1st world countries – sad – I need the roles to be reversed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s true. Luckily we are essentially retired and living in a nice safe place so it’s not too bad. I was watching something the other day that said the drug trade accounted for something like 30% of the economy here. That shocked me and I wasn’t sure if it was true or not. And then of course you hear about kidnappings and what not. America has towns and neighborhoods that are like 10th world countries though, too. It just doesn’t get talked about as much.


  5. You make great points about how people with mental illness live their lives. We often look like everyone else 😉

    I like hard-boiled eggs in my potato salad. And dill pickles are a must! I’m going to try adding carrots, however. I bet it adds a welcome crunch.

    Liked by 1 person

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