Not your mom’s potato salad

Paula Tessier
Published on July 22, 2014

The day of our very first date, more than 150 years ago, we were a little late getting started because my now husband was enjoying a family dinner with his parents and brothers.

He had only purchased his own house a month before, and I suppose the lure of his mother’s cooking was too great to resist. I’ve had his mother’s cooking countless times since, and truth be told, I would have done exactly the same thing.

While she is a fabulous cook, her oldest son does have a few favourite dishes that no other person has been able to compete with. I’ve learned that the hard way.

Who doesn’t love a potato salad? Well, it seems my spouse can’t get enough of the creamy summer dish … as long as his mother, and only his mother, makes it.

He’s like a youngster on Christmas morning when he knows she’s serving her incomparable potato salad. And just like Christmas dinner, hubs eats enough of it to almost make himself sick.

So, one day, many years ago, I decided I’d surely be able to re-create this dish myself, as a surprise for my sweet beloved.

The spuds were cooked just so, cooled then cut in chunks like my mother in law does, the salad dressing was added, green onions, salt, and topped with just the right amount of paprika.

It looked perfect, almost exactly like the dish I’d seen ever so many times before. Excitedly, I served it that very night with supper.

Well, he seemed to enjoy it, even cleaned his plate. Well then, I thought, that’s great. Nailed the dish the very first time.

But my own validation wasn’t quite enough, I needed his opinion. So, like a silly person, I asked the scariest question a man can hear from his wife: “Is it as good as your mother’s?”

The look of sheer panic on his face gave it away before he could utter a word. I had my answer.

He knew it was too late to back-pedal, so he just suggested that perhaps his mother didn’t use quite as much green onion, but that my salad was still delicious … apparently.

We were late enough in our relationship for me not to be too offended. After all, I can tuck away a good bit of her dish myself.

Over the years, I made a couple more attempts, each time I missed the mark, ever so slightly. It actually became a running joke between hubby and me until I eventually threw in the towel and advised that all potato salad ever to be enjoyed by my husband would only be made by his mother.

So, last week, while at our getaway place, I was looking in the fridge to see what I could prepare for lunch. Casually I mentioned we had a surplus of eggs on hand, to which hubby mentioned, ever so subtly, about how much he loves egg sandwiches.

Really? Well that’s easy enough. Egg salad sandwiches it would be. But then he followed up with a most frightening phrase; “Mom always made the best egg sandwiches. I loved them, ate them all the time.”


Sadly, I realized that we didn’t have some critical ingredients on hand. That cursed green onion being one.

I remarked to my spouse that the salad would be a little bit basic. I could see the wheels turning in his head.

He didn’t need to say a word, I could read his mind. He was thinking, what exactly did mom put in the sandwiches, I wonder?

Again, because we’ve been together for so long, he voiced his concern.

So, to err on the side of caution, very few extras were added to the cooled, peeled, boiled eggs, besides dressing of course. And he couldn’t help but suggest that his mother didn’t mash the eggs until they were creamy; a little chunkier was his preference.

Of course!

I will concede on the potato salad — hers really is fantastic! Now I have to try the egg salad to know what I’m up against.

And if there’s anything else hubby loved as comfort food, he’s going to have to learn to make it himself.

Email Paula Tessier at