Last weekend I took the bus from New York to Virginia to hang out with my family for Mother’s Day.
I didn’t miss Virginia too terribly when I lived in Chicago. I missed the people, sure, and sometimes the weather, but overall I was pretty happy being an Illinois resident, where the politics were more liberal and I could buy whiskey in Target. My NYC friends would wax poetic about the Virginia countryside and I’d be all, “Yep, it sure is pretty. ANYWAY…”
Well friends, maybe it’s the lack of green space where I live in New York, or maybe I just finally got some smarts, but on this trip I understood. The breeze! Like the beautiful green cool breath of tree angels! And the smell! Like plants and dirt—DIRT dirt, from the EARTH, not particles of trash and human feces! When the air caresses your skin in New York it always makes you feel sort of molested and vaguely dirty. When the air caresses your skin at my parents’ house it’s like the cool touch of a beautiful Scandinavian man who smells nice.
I listened to birds. The dog frolicked. My dad, the original hipster, showed me his backyard chickens. We all ate burgers and inhaled fresh air and looked at green things. And then we took my mom to brunch.
The brunch was good, and I wasn’t about to make my mom cook on Mother’s Day, but normally the real pleasure for me in going home is digging through my parents’ fridge, or coaxing my mom to make one of my favorites. Deviled eggs, chicken salad, german chocolate cake—one of those things that isn’t really hard to make but that no one but Mom will ever be able to do just right. I particularly remember this chicken salad inspiring school-lunch envy when I was growing up. One friend of mine repeatedly bugged her own mother to make it, then when she finally did, informed her that the result “just wasn’t as good” as my mom’s. Burn.
And truly, when I made it yesterday in my little Brooklyn kitchen, the result was good—delicious, even—but it just wasn’t quite the same.
Mom’s Chicken Salad
3–4 boneless chicken breasts (Mom’s note: Rib-in is fine too, it just takes more time to pull off the bone.)
¾ cup celery (about 3 stalks), peeled and finely chopped
¾ cup sweet pickle relish
2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
½–¾ cup vidalia onion (about 1 med. onion), finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Mayonnaise (about ½–1 cup, according to taste—don’t skimp though!)
- Boil the chicken til done (mine took about half an hour) and shred or chop while still warm. (Mom shreds hers and this is how I recommend it.)
- Add celery, relish, eggs, onion, salt and pepper—taste and then add more celery, relish or onion depending on what it needs.
- Add the mayonnaise last, in ½-cup increments, until it’s the consistency you like.