Non-Traditional Traditions

Our family Thanksgiving is pretty easy to summarize: two days of cooking followed by 20 minutes of eating, then as the food coma subsides, we have a spirited game of Turkey Ball. It’s played with leftover drumsticks and it’s kind of a cross between lacrosse, keep-away, and interpretive dance. No one knows the exact origin of Turkey Ball, but family lore suggests it started when Aunt Wanda confused Cousin Earl’s glaucoma medicine with dried sage, and stuffed the turkey with it. The origins are murky, but from that day forward a new family tradition (and stuffing recipe) was born. It’s a lot of fun, but sooner or later a neighbor complains and we have to shut things down. Once again, the game was canceled due to foul play. 
 
I share that story to illustrate that we are not traditionalists when it comes to Thanksgiving, especially when it comes to the menu. Turkey, usually smoked, has found itself on the table, but so have ribs and sushi. Food items may change, and the “Is This A Giblet?” game might be postponed, but one thing is always certain. There will be potato salad, and it will be Better Than Sally Bell’s potato salad. 
 
If you’re not from Richmond, to get you up to speed, I just committed heresy. Sally Bell’s Kitchen has been supplying Richmonders with lovely baked items and boxed lunches since 1926, and by lovely I mean the goodies packed into their signature cardboard boxes are works of art. One item particularly, their potato salad, stands out as spud spectacular. The ruler of rhizomes, the titan of tubers, the sultan of salads. What I’m saying is that Sally b*tch can cook her eggs off. 
 
But, is it fair for one person to hold the keys to such flavor, such joy, such power? I say no Sally, I say no. So, after gallons of mayonnaise and years of trial and error, the code has been cracked and I present to you the recipe for Better Than Sally Bell’s potato salad. Use it wisely.
 

Better Than Sally Bell’s Potato Salad

  • 3 hard-cooked egg yolks

  • 3/4 cup Duke’s mayonnaise

  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard

  • 3 tablespoons sweet pickle juice

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground celery seed

  • 3 teaspoons sugar

  • 1 sweet onion (finely chopped)

  • 1 ribs celery (finely chopped)

  • 5 redskin potatoes (boiled, peeled, cubed, slightly mashed)
Place cooked and cubed potatoes in a large bowl and slightly mash half the contents.
 
In a separate bowl, mash egg yolks and incorporate into the mayonnaise. Add mustard, sweet pickle juice, salt, pepper, ground celery seeds and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. Add onions, celery, and potatoes; mix to desired consistency. Try not to over-mix, the more you mess with potatoes, the starchier they become. Once chilled, salt and pepper to taste again.
 
Notes: To cook potatoes, peel, quarter, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 15-20 min. Cut while still hot to reduce starch. I use my homemade pickle juice which is sweeter, spicier, and more acidic than store-bought. To mimic homemade, start with a sweet variety like a gherkin, then add some apple cider vinegar and sugar to taste.
 
Additions: bacon, or 2 teaspoons finely chopped sweet pickle.
 

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