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The Missing Ingredient

In search of Mom's potato salad recipe
Brenda Winter
Brenda Winter, columnist

Dad and I hold our forks in mid air, staring into space the way people do when they sample food.
We’re trying to figure out Mom’s potato salad recipe.
Potato salad was Mom’s premier dish. Her barbecued chicken was good, and so was her apple crisp, but nothing compared to the potato salad.
It was the German version – heavy on the mustard and onions. She used Miracle Whip, not mayo. A little salt – but not too much. (You can always add more later.)
No sugar.
She didn’t use fancy things like chopped celery or relish. The potatoes were always just a tiny bit undercooked. (Or they turn to mush when you mix it all up.)
The hard-boiled eggs were dropped into ice water to make them peel more easily. (And never use fresh eggs.)
Mom’s batches of potato salad were large. Really large. There was always enough for 20 people and leftovers. (It’s better the second day.)
And so, Dad and I carry on the potato salad experiments.
The first attempt was a dismal failure because I used mayo and not enough mustard and onion.
Dad added an entire onion and said it was getting closer.
The second attempt began with a trip to the grocery store for Miracle Whip. I’m not sure I’ve ever bought it before.
I searched for “German potato salad recipes” and found a few that used a lot of mustard and onion. (Like they are supposed to.)
One called for apple cider vinegar which I’m not sure Mom ever used. (You don’t need it if you add enough mustard.)
One said the onions were optional. (That’s what you think.)
I settled on a recipe that seemed most similar to Mom’s and followed the instructions to a T.
(Oh for Pete's sake, just add things until it tastes right.)
I used homegrown potatoes and onions, half a dozen hard-boiled eggs, Miracle Whip and enough mustard to make it bright yellow.
We sample.
It’s better.
The fresh onions are delicious. The potatoes are cooked just right. The Miracle Whip helped.
But, again, we stare into space and think … something is still missing.