My Mother-in-law's Potato Salad

by Lorraine Triggs

My mother’s slide into dementia was gradual. I noticed it more in what turned out to be her last extended visit with us. And it was around this time of year.

She really wasn’t comfortable coming to church, so that particular Sunday, we turned the radio to WETN, turned the volume way up and headed to church.

Before I left, I took out my recipe card for my mother-in-law’s potato salad and set it on the counter next to a bowl. I also put the potatoes in the pot on the stove.

“What can I do?” my mom asked anxiously. During this visit, I discovered that Mom was the happiest when she had simple tasks to do.

“Nothing yet. You can help me make the potato salad when we’re home from church,” I assured her.

“What can I do?” she asked again.

“Just wait till we’re home,” I repeated.

When we returned, I walked into the kitchen to start the water boiling for the potatoes—no pot on the stove. And the kitchen looked a lot cleaner than how I left it.

“Mom?” I called. “What did you do with the potatoes in the pot?”

“They’re in the refrigerator,” she replied calmly. “But I had to use a bigger bowl.”

Now I was getting scared and made Wil open the refrigerator. . . .

He pulled out a bowl of perfectly made potato salad. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“Your mother-in-law knows how to make a good potato salad,” my mom pointed out.

We laughed.

Here’s my mother-in-law’s famous potato salad.

  • 5 lbs. boiling potatoes                                  
  • 1 dozen eggs                                                     
  • 8 stalks of celery (tops included)                              
  • 1-2 large onions
  • 6-8 dill pickles
  • 1 qt mayonnaise (or less depending on your preference)
  • 1-2 T mustard
  • a dash of pickle juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in jackets. Cool thoroughly. Peel and cut into bite-size pieces. Boil eggs 10-15 minutes; immediately immerse in ice cold water. Peel and chop and add to potatoes. Chop celery (including tops), onion and pickles. Add to eggs and potatoes. Add mayonnaise to taste. Add mustard, pickle juice salt and pepper. Stir mixture thoroughly—She always said to use your hands to mix it. Refrigerate until well chilled.