First of all, I should come clean: I feel like I'm committing some terrible sin by posting this recipe for potato salad for the general public. Southerners didn't invent potato salad, but surely we've perfected it, raised it to the level of high art. That's why this article is a sin. This recipe has no business getting out to the wider public. It is a North Mississippi thing, and by all rights, it should stay here, our own little secret available only to those who visit us. Interlopers have no business making this potato salad. The gods are marking this one down.
And lest I step on anyone's toes, I want to add that I add my name to this recipe only because I reverse engineered it. In other words, I have never seen the actual recipe for this potato salad, but I recreated it, over the course of many, many batches, from the information I collected from my taste buds. Perhaps the gods will take that into account.
All of that said, and now that I've committed to committing this horrible sin, let me provide some background.
As far as I know, It originates in Tupelo, Mississippi, at the defunct TKE drugstore, which was one of those soda-fountain drug stores in which one could get his or her meds, a sandwich, and a vanilla Coke. It had closed well before my time, but the potato salad served there is preserved today at Finney's Sandwish & Soda Shop in Tupelo. Finney's is about as old school as it gets. No fancy-pants deli, but white-bread sandwiches such as pimento cheese, chicken salad, and tuna fish, among others. There you'll find your fresh-squeezed orange-ade, your chocolate malt, etc. But one doesn't eat at Finney's for the milkshakes or the sandwiches. One eats there to have what I can only call the best potato salad in the known universe.
Its uniqueness comes from its consistency and texture. This potato salad more closely resembles mashed potatoes than what one would typically think of as potato salad. It is silky smooth, flavored with onion, peppers, mayonnaise and mustard. It will knock you out of your chair. It will make you happy to be alive.
7 or 8 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed. (I've also made it with Yukon gold potatoes, to great effect)
2 medium yellow onions, minced
2 stalks of celery, minced
1 bell pepper, minced
1 4 oz. jar pimento peppers
7 or 8 heaping tbsp. Mayonnaise (Dukes if you can get it)
3 or 4 tbsp. Yellow mustard
Freshly-ground black pepper
Peel and cube potatoes. Mince onions, celery, and bell pepper. In a large pot, add potatoes and boil them in salted water. About five minutes into the boil, add onions, celery, and bell pepper. Boil for another ten minutes or so until the potatoes are falling apart, thoroughly cooked. Let sit for about fifteen minutes in the water. Drain and return to the pot or to a large mixing bowl. With a potato masher, mash the hell out of the potatoes and vegetables, as if you were making smooth mashed potatoes. Add mayonnaise. Stir. Add mustard. Stir. Add pepper, lots of it so that it is good and speckled throughout. Drain pimentos and add them. Stir. Add salt to taste. Stir.
The potato salad should be smooth and creamy, like good and creamy mashed potatoes. It can be eaten immediately, or it can be chilled and served cold. It is delicious either way. To really knock socks off, make it the day before and let the flavors marry in the refrigerator.