When to Leave Well Enough Alone

Ironically, I hadn’t read Ray’s response to the weekly Q&A until this morning. Why is it ironic? Because the very thing I was working on for this week’s blog post was that same potato salad that Ray told me was one of his favorite dishes made by his mother, Tina.

Shortly after getting engaged, Tom and I were invited to his parents house for lunch. I don’t remember everything we ate that day, but two things stood out. One was some delicious grilled vegetables that Ray had helped to make. The other was his mom’s potato salad. I love potato salad and had eaten it many times over the years in many variations, but had never had any quite like hers. Her potato salad did not contain any onions (Tom despises raw onion), and instead of the predictable cubed pickles, hers contained fresh cucumbers. To add another unique touch, her potato salad featured celery seeds, which I really love and had never had in a potato salad before.

The potato salad that I have traditionally made is a typical southern style that uses mustard, those predictable cubed pickles and Vidalia onions. It has always been expected and enjoyed at gatherings of friends and family, but after marrying Tom, who you’ll remember (because I just told you) hates raw onions, that would mean that I would need to learn to make his mother’s potato salad. It would also mean that on every occasion that called for potato salad, I would be making two. After experimenting and a little coaching from Tina, I eventually got pretty good at reproducing her potato salad, at least good enough to make Tom very happy. It was also amusing to watch Tom as friends and family were given explanations about what this new second potato salad was. Most would look at it quizically, decide to take a small sample to taste, and inevitably return for a larger serving. Each time this happened, Tom became visibly tense, afterall, these people were eating the potato salad meant for him.

The one shortcoming of this potato salad is that with the addition of fresh cucumbers, it doesn’t hold well. If the potato salad is refrigerated overnight, the cucumbers will weep and the salad becomes soggy. So, this week I thought I’d solve that problem by salting the cucumbers ahead of time and sharing this recipe with the world. In my imagination I would solve the weeping cucumber situation and sit back and bask in glory of my achievement, but when does anything turn out like that? The reality is that what I produced was very substandard. Although I rinsed and patted dry the salted cucumbers, they were still quite salty and in the end, threw off the entire balance of the dish. In my opinion, what I produced was not good at all, but Tom disagreed with me. He said, “It doesn’t taste bad, but it is now a completely different dish.”

I held off writing my blog until today in the hopes that after an overnight stay in the refrigerator, by the magic of osmosis, the salad would taste better. I’m happy to report that the cucumbers did not weep, and the salad was not soggy. The taste, however? Still not good. So, my efforts to reinvent the wheel were unsuccessful. My confidence has been shaken, but as usual I now feel the need to prove myself. I will abandon the whole salted cucumber approach, and leave well enough alone so stay tuned to this channel for in a couple of weeks, I will have remastered Tina’s pototo salad to share with the world.

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