By Leigha Burnham
Summer is heating up here in Georgia and cool salads are becoming even more appealing to the palette. When we begin to plan our Sunday picnics, pool-side lunches, or backyard barbeque, it is inevitable that potato salad ends up on the menu. It is truly a Southern classic. Keeping in mind that every Southern woman has her mother's potato salad recipe, passed down from her mother and the mother before her, it is no wonder that one can find variations on the Southern potato salad. But one or two things always hold true if the salad is truly Southern: (1) it is always served cold, (2) there is almost always more mustard than mayonnaise in the salad, and (3) there are no skins in the salad.
I want to expound for just a moment on these three distinctions. Many of us are familiar with German potato salad, which is typically served warm. Here in Georgia where summer temperatures are easily in the high 90s, a warm potato salad just doesn't sound very good! We need our salads cool and crisp. Served fresh from the cold "icebox" is best. We also prefer a little...or maybe even a lot...of yellow mustard. The ratio of mayo to mustard will vary on the family recipe used, but I assure you that my household really prefers more mustard. And if you were to worry that all that mustard would make the salad too tangy, no worries. We add sweet pickle relish to balance it out. It is necessary to mention that Southern potato salad in its truest form does NOT have skins in it. Now, I can eat a potato salad that has skins and enjoy it just fine, but it doesn't rival the no-skin version. There is simply is no comparison.
Every reader of the ABG blog needs to feel pretty special at this point because the recipe I am about to share is my Granmucher's recipe. (And no, it isn't grandmother; I called her gran-much-er.) I have many a summer memory of my Granmucher, standing over her farmhouse sink, singing a Vestal Goodman tune, all while stirring in some sweet vidalia to her mustard-laden potato salad. It is still the best potato salad recipe I've ever tasted and I'm not quite sure that my preparation tastes as wonderful as hers did. It must have been the secret ingredient of grandmotherly love that made the difference. Enjoy, y'all!
Granmucher's Southern Potato Salad
6-8 red potatoes, peeled & cubed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup (more or less) of yellow mustard
1/4 cup chopped vidalia onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 hard boiled egg, finely diced
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle cubes (& a little juice thrown in)
salt and pepper to taste
sliced green bell pepper and paprika for garnish
Making sure your potatoes are washed, peeled, and cubed, bring them to a rapid boil and cook until very tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Mix mayo, yellow mustard, salt and pepper until stirred into a creamy dressing. Add onion, celery, and sweet pickles (plus some of the juice) to the dressing mixture and finally add in the potato. When stirring together, you want to mash/cream some of the potatoes, while leaving some of them in small chunks...this adds a wonderful creamy-ness to the salad, but keeps the integrity of some of the potatoes intact. Finally, add one finely chopped boiled egg to the salad and mix well. Move salad into a pretty serving dish, sprinkle with paprika for color, and then add the sliced bell pepper for garnish. Chill for at least one hour before serving!
A Procrastinator's Salad
By Leigha Burnham
Better late than never. If you know me at all, you know that I do not live by procrastination or tardiness. I hate being late. I detest it. So much so, that it is probably the only real "beef" that I have had with the curator of this blog in our 17+ year marriage. He is usually late! We have had our fair share of arguments over that. I want to be 10 minutes early so that I can have the relief of not having missed anything. He wants to be 10 minutes late so that he can quietly slip in unnoticed. I'm more of a doer. He is more of an observer. I digress.
This is the third in my series on summer salads and I was supposed to have it posted on Sunday last. Well...it is Wednesday. Graduate work and motherhood beckoned and I answered. So, how do I come up with a last minute, throw-it-together-so-that-no-one-will-really-notice salad? Look to the Italians. Seriously! They may not be Georgians, but they know fresh ingredients and flavors like nobody's business! And they love a more relaxed way of life...maybe even a little tardiness. Here is a Southerner's take on an Italian classic: Insalata Caprese
1 fresh basil plant
bunch of fresh tomatoes from your garden
a good quality, store-bought mozzarella (I use Galbani brand)
a good quality olive oil (the darker the better, but I used what I had on hand)
a good quality balsamic vinegar (optional, as I didn't have any)
salt and pepper to taste
Wash your tomatoes and rinse your basil gently. Slice the tomato into thick slices and arrange on a platter. Salt and pepper your tomatoes. Open your mozzarella, drain liquid, and then cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and place on top of each tomato. Finally, add your basic leaves on top. The smaller leaves are more tender and look beautiful, but if you only have larger leaves, simply tear them in half. Drizzle the olive oil and optional balsamic over the caprese. You can let these sit for about 20-30 minutes before serving to let the flavors marry, but these didn't last that long on my table!
Stained Glass Gaffe
By Sam Burnham
What is shared in this post is a correction, perhaps even a mea culpa. This past Friday, I appeared on the GPB Show On Second Thought. I was asked a question about the removal of Confederate Flags from the stained glass windows in the National Cathedral in Washington. I had prepared to answer the question prior to the show. When my time to opine arrived, my mouth rebelled and the unorganized torrent of stupidity that came from it was nowhere near what I had prepared. Instead of being a proper representative for the preservation of Southern History, I looked like a fool. I'm taking to the keyboard now to give the long response to the question that I had shrunken to fit into the time allowed. My apologies to fans of ABG & OST who did not get my best on that question on Friday.
The National Cathedral in Washington is removing the Confederate flags from the stained glass windows that pay tribute to Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. The generals themselves are remaining for now but we can only wonder how long that will last as there is talk of a "conversation" on their roles and suitability for display in the cathedral. I find myself disappointed by this decision but not surprised. There has been a coordinated effort over the last several years to remove symbols of the Confederacy from any place where they may be seen by the general public. This stems from the feelings of shock and disdain because of the role slavery played in the history of the Confederacy and the antebellum South.
At this point, most arguments from the Southern point of view would veer off into the various causes of the war while downplaying the influence of slavery. Northern views would focus on slavery while trying to negate any other possible causes. In fact there are two great fallacies pertaining to the causes of the war: 1) Slavery was the only cause of the war & 2) Slavery had nothing to do with the war. The causes for political upheaval were many and diverse, much like our current era. Slavery was a hot button issue, but it was only one issue. Unfortunately, this post cannot remotely expound on the myriad of causes for two regions with very different economies and cultures to go to war with each other. Suffice it to say the war came when men stopped listening to one another and started shooting at one another.
Allow me to address the setting. There is a long held tradition in Christendom of using stained glass to tell stories. In medieval times parishioners who were typically illiterate could look to the windows for a visual interpretation of the stories from Scripture and even the very nature of the man Christ. I remember gazing up at three such windows with my young son who remarked, "Dad, they tell a story." He then preceded to explain the story to me by progressing from one window to the next. As a child of six or seven, he easily could tell there was a story, without my prompting him. The windows of the National Cathedral tell the story of our nation, of Americans as a people, and of our progress through time that has brought us to where we are today. Our history is complicated, it is checkered, and, at times, downright dark. There is plenty that we might not be proud of. But we should never censor or hide that past. We must face the good and the bad with the understanding that our republic is not perfect and never will be but we must understand our past to know our present and plan for our future.
Then there are the men themselves. While there are nutcases who try to spread disparaging stories about these two men, they were great men with great contributions to our nation from their service to the United States in the Mexican War, through their defense of their home state. These men both served as educators and are considered by all serious historians to be men of faith and virtue. Jackson is even enshrined in stained glass in the historically black Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, VA. That window was placed by the children of the slaves that attended the Sunday school class that Jackson taught for slaves. These families thought so much of the general that they raised the funds for the window and even refused the cries of those who called for its removal during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Jackson is thought to be the only Confederate general with such a memorial in a black church in the nation.
As far as the battle flags are concerned, I really do see where some are offended. I understand. I also know that there is a lot in our history and our present to offend most people, if not everyone. If we choose to censor any of our history, then fairness suggests that all of our history be subject to the same treatment and once we start editing and censoring en masse, we lose the essence in who we are as a people. Our identity is destroyed and we have no story, no legacy, nothing but conjecture about how this nation arrived in the 21st Century.
And so, I'd call upon us all to engage in a true conversation about our past. I'd ask that we'd consider if we are, to quote Sir Isaac Newton, standing on the shoulders of giants, taking the advancements and wisdom of men we can now identify as flawed and wrong on certain topics, and furthering their world by adding our wisdom to that. Because we inherited the philosophies of men who kept people enslaved but began an experiment in Liberty and representative democracy, we are able to move forward, accepting and promoting equal protection under the law for all people, and then pass the experiment to our children who will stand on our shoulders and then remove our errors.
I'd suggest that is exactly what we are doing, and Lee and Jackson are two of those giants. It is my hope that we will stand on their shoulders rather than throw them under the bus.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire