Claremore Daily Progress

September 29, 2011

Smooth or Chunky?

Larry Larkin
Special to the Progress

CLAREMORE — When it comes to preparing a meal cooks are called on to make multiple decisions.  Even after deciding what items will be on the upcoming menu, more choices must be made.

For example will it be fried or scrambled eggs for breakfast?  At lunch time will it be chili with or without beans?  Which will go better with the dinner steak, French fries or baked potato?  

We will not attempt to pick the flavor of ice cream for the bed time snack.

What this is leading up to is the making of potato salad.

This dish goes great with numerous combinations.  All barbeque places feature their “award winning” recipes.  Picnics are not complete without potato salad be it cold chicken or sandwiches.

The true beauty of potato salad is it can be served heated or cold.  It tastes just good fresh from the stove or stored for hours in the ice chest.

Potato salad is simple to make.  Boil the prime subject and add boiled eggs, pickles, onions, and mayo (Miracle Whip is my choice) and then mix it all together.  Some chefs add chopped celery and or small pieces of cheese.  The pickles can be sweet or dill.  My two daughters like to add ranch dressing, but they shouldn’t count.  They like ranch dressing on everything.

Before all this takes place, one of those many decisions discussed seconds ago must be made.  Honestly the outcome of this verdict has caused family fights at gatherings.

Will the potato salad be smooth or chunky?

There is really no right or wrong way.  The best tasting potato salad is in the eye of the beholder, or actually more on the beholder’s taste buds.  

The difference in the two ways it is made is simple.  If smooth is the choice, prepare the potatoes like fixing mash potatoes, but leave out the milk and butter.   By going the chunky path the potatoes need not even be peeled, just cut in small squares before cooking.

Tradition must be the factor in choosing between smooth and chucky.  My family pretty much went with the smooth and that’s what my mother made as I was growing up.  Cherl’s mother made the chunky and that’s how she learned.

Even had the roles been reversed I would now be a fan of the smooth type.  This is because of an incident when I was in the Marine Corps serving a month on mess duty.

Since the beginning of time military personnel have criticized their food.

On this one day they had good reason, only they were not aware of the reason.

Potato salad was on the noon menu.  Unlike the Beetle Bailey comic strip where the potatoes are peeled one by one, we had a large 20 gallon potato peeler.  The potatoes were dumped in and they somehow bounced around metal blades until all the peels were removed.

Three temporary workers were handling the potatoes when one of them reached too far into the machine.  It sliced his right thumb off.

The base infirmary was approximately 200 yards from the mess hall.  The old mess hall staff sergeant wrapped up the bleeding hand and told someone to get the wounded man to the infirmary.  He also retrieved the thump pieces out of the potatoes, put them on ice, and sent them, too.

I would like to report the man’s thumb was successfully reattached.  Sorry, it didn’t happen.  The doctor on duty quickly realized a portion of the thumb was missing.  It was the middle knuckle.

This was reported back to the mess hall.  By this time the blood in the chunky potato salad had been scraped off.  A brief search failed to turn up the missing knuckle.

It was almost time to start serving the meal.  There was only one thing to do.  We served chucky potato salad for lunch that day and then for leftovers that evening.

I am happy to report no one reported finding an extra chuck in their potato salad that day.  As much as I like the dish, I stayed away from potato salad until I was discharged over a year later and sent home.