We had a major potato salad crisis at our Fourth-of-July barbecue. Someone forgot to designate a family member to be the official “bringer of potato salad.” So everyone took it upon themselves to bring potato salad. We had 2,927 varieties.
There are few things more American than a full-scale potato salad war. When I saw all that Corningware and outdated olive drab Tupperware lined up on the buffet, all filled with concoctions of boiled potatoes and mayonnaise, it made me feel warm and patriotic inside.
I don’t have to remind you that it’s been a long year. A really long one. This backyard barbecue was long overdue.
Last year my family didn’t even do a Fourth-of-July cookout. There was a pandemic going on. Instead, my wife and I sat at home and played dominoes. We had no covered dishes. No potato salad. I think we ate cold leftover Chinese takeout and watched a “Laverne and Shirley” marathon. And I hate dominoes.
Thankfully, that sad year is miles behind us now.
Today, the aunts and uncles arrived by the dozens, all carrying 30-pound jugs of potato salad. My mother-in-law made several kilos of her special celery-pimento potato salad. Even a few of the little kids had prepared some potato salad, which tasted pretty good once you picked out the Lego pieces.
Meanwhile, my brother-in-law was manning the charcoals, flipping hamburgers, trying to remember everyone’s picky food orders. No two burgers at our get-together were the same. In this modern age everyone is on some kind of special diet.
We had the beautiful people who only wanted 99-percent lean hamburgers. We had “keto” and “paleo” people who wanted high cholesterol beef. And lastly, we had those who chose to eat tofu and grain burgers. “The tofu is colored with delicious beet juice,” reported one vegetarian.
Me? I went straight for the potato salad. My wife had prepared enough potato salad to ruin the rear suspension of our SUV. We transported her fare in five-gallon plastic buckets that required two able bodied men to lift each heavy container.
As I write this, Uncle Herschel is still lying flat on his sofa, icing his back, popping anti-inflammatory meds like peanut M&Ms.
But anyway, all the coolers were stocked with plenty of cold stuff. And our buffet table was adorned with all the traditional finery.
We had sliced heirloom tomatoes, backyard cucumbers, pantry pickles, peeled Chilton County peaches, fresh corn on the cob, Methodist deviled eggs, Baptist deviled eggs, and Church of God eggs—which are just deviled eggs with the Devil cast out of them.
There was homemade ice cream, and cheese casseroles galore, fresh brewed iced tea, homemade lemonade, blueberry cobbler, pound cake, and many other items that cause your cardiologist to disown you.
We sat at splintery wooden picnic tables with our full plates and bowed our heads for the blessing. And when someone asked the Lord to make us truly grateful for all the wonderful things we have all taken for granted in years past, I nearly cried.
Because I was realizing that this holiday felt so incredibly normal. So marvelously run-of-the-mill. So much like olden times. Today was the kind of laid back affair that wouldn’t have seemed like a big deal to me before the pandemic came along. But it is a big deal. In fact it’s the biggest of deals.
Last year was a bummer. There were few festivities, people were losing their jobs, Major League Baseball had been cancelled, and birthdays were celebrated in drive-by fashion. It seemed like everyone was arguing about something trivial, and most of my friends were communicating exclusively with memes.
But today, the heaviness of the previous year is becoming a memory, and life holds something new again. I can’t believe we’ve come this far.
Today we had a barbecue. Today we had each other. Today I listened to elderly people tell stories, and I watched humans do what they were designed to do. Be together.
I will likely be eating leftover potato salad until they write my obituary. But after the kind of great day I’ve had, my request is that they bury me with a bowl of the stuff.
I hope you had a happy Fourth.
Toni Locke - July 5, 2021 9:27 am
I dub you the Master of Hyperbole. Thanks for keeping your readers happier than any of us should have been during the height of the pandemic!
Ed (Bear) - July 5, 2021 11:14 am
You’re a treasure, Sean of the South.
Thanks for helping us recuperate.
Shirley Arbet - July 5, 2021 2:14 pm
Amen to that!
nashrrg - July 5, 2021 11:50 pm
Sounds like heaven, “special celery-pimento potato salad”.
Joan moore - July 5, 2021 11:20 am
We did, thank you for all your work to keep us mindful of our freedoms from everything we could not do last year. May we never forget what sacrifices many people made and realize for many, life will never be the same again.
Paul McCutchen - July 5, 2021 11:22 am
We had a small get together. Two of the kids live out of state and of the two instate only one has taken the vaccine so she and her husband came. I don’t believe I will not need to eat for a while.
Peter Alan Turner - July 5, 2021 11:40 am
Loved it brought lots back memories. Like time everyone brought deviled eggs, or when by Uncle dropped the watermelon. But mostly, all my brothers, sister, and Mom & Dad stuffed into Dad’s green colored Oldsmobile, riding over the mountains to Aunt Bea’s.
Michael - July 5, 2021 11:48 am
True story. My Mother-in-law called them “stuffed eggs” because she wouldn’t say “devil.”
Stacey Wallace - July 6, 2021 3:24 pm
Michael, my Mama calls them stuffed eggs, too. Not sure why; I thought everyone in Alabama called them that, but I was wrong. Lol
Debbie g - July 5, 2021 12:01 pm
Wonderful story!!!!!! As usual 😀😀happy day and love to all !!!
Jo Ann - July 5, 2021 12:08 pm
Thank you, Sean. We, too, went to a 4th of July get-together. Lots of food & conversation. Lots of little kids running around & older ones on their phones! The fireworks were fabulous!!! And when I looked out in the distance, there were fireworks all over the country!!!!!! Everyone was saying we’re back! God bless the USA!!!
Suellen - July 5, 2021 12:30 pm
I think most of America can agree with you on the sheer joy of getting back to normal. They really cut loose with the fireworks all around us last night. It was LOUD and continuous for about 3 hours but I only heard JOY and love of country. By the way, I don’t think you can ever have too much potato salad.
Teri Easterling - July 5, 2021 12:58 pm
Love this! “Church of God eggs” a hoot!
Phillip Saunders - July 5, 2021 1:43 pm
Thanks, Sean. We had a much more simple 4th, alas, no potato salad. Hamburgers, yes, and delicious devilish eggs prepared by my devilishly wonderful wife.
A pox on the pandemic and God Bless America!
Karen Snyder - July 5, 2021 2:03 pm
Sean, if you keep eating that potato salad too long past it’s ‘use-by’ date, your obit may come sooner than you planned.😱 Joking aside, though, thanks for taking us to your celebration!🧡
Joe F - July 5, 2021 2:16 pm
Wonderful thoughts. Potato Salad is marvelous and a 5 gallon bucket on the 4th for first time in 2 years is a memory to remember. My dad was a Church of God pastor and we didn’t know our Potato Salad was different.
Patti - July 5, 2021 2:22 pm
Yes. We were meant to be with other people. Not locked up.
Don’t get so happy about your new freedom that you forget to write!
Stacey Wallace - July 5, 2021 3:44 pm
Sean, you are the real deal. Thanks for starting off my day and my husband’s the right way–with something heartwarming. A belated Happy Fourth of July to you.
Patricia Gibson - July 5, 2021 5:11 pm
Thank God for good things❤️
Judy Phillips - July 5, 2021 6:35 pm
Thanks for another wonderful entertaining blog. I look forward to them. Keep that inspiration flowing ☺️.
Peggy ALEXANDER - July 5, 2021 6:53 pm
We didn’t have Fireworks 💥 this year ( A shortage). We usually have about an hour show after our Church Dinner but not this year. Also I live near the Country Club and they usually have a long, loud celebration too but didn’t last long this year. My little dog Sally Jo was happy 😊 there wasn’t many. She doesn’t like fireworks 🎇
Peggy ALEXANDER - July 5, 2021 6:59 pm
There wasn’t as many fireworks 💥 this year around my house (shortage) and my little dog SALLY JO was so happy 😁. She doesn’t like them 😂😂
Rebecca Souders - July 5, 2021 7:06 pm
Garden tomatoes? I’m jealous! Thanks indeed for a more normal summer, and your good words to remind us of our blessings.
Joe - July 5, 2021 7:36 pm
You don’t like dominoes?! Really, how can someone like you not like dominoes and still like potato salad?
Linda Moon - July 5, 2021 8:06 pm
I thought about taking potato salad to our family’s barbecue last night. Instead, I made a fruit salad. Now you’ve made me want some potato salad, so I’ll make it for dinner. Our overdue backyard barbecue was wonderful, too, Sean, as we gathered together at the Family Pit. Only one of us had a special diet, so all was good!
Fred Frederick - July 5, 2021 9:26 pm
For some reason, the song “Big Yellow Taxi” comes to mind.
We often don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone.
I’m so glad we were able to get most of it back!
Thanks for another wonderful story Sean.
Melanie - July 6, 2021 12:59 am
I believe the past year was tougher for you, Sean, than most would realize. So happy you are back in your element surrounded by food and family. And dogs too, I hope. No sense in the stuff that “falls on the ground” going to waste. Enjoy every minute of every new day and thank you for sharing your precious gift of writing.
Janette - July 6, 2021 1:19 am
No potato salad for us this year. We spent our 4th on the road from south Florida to Canada. The border opens up today for those who are vaccinated. So we have rushed there. It has been almost 2 years since we have been with our grandchildren and digital visits are not the same. I am a 5th generation Floridian and can’t understand why our daughter would choose to live anywhere else!
Anyway, thanks, Sean, for encouraging us through these many months. Maybe I’ll make us some potato salad when we return!
Christine - July 6, 2021 2:54 am
That was sooo funnnyyy, loved it 😅😂😄😅
Anita Smith - July 6, 2021 4:54 am
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 6, 2021 12:24 pm
Carolyn Geck - July 7, 2021 6:25 pm
So special to be able to gather with family & friends again. The potato salad & stories are a welcome bonus!😍🇺🇸😊
Bill Harris - July 18, 2021 11:59 pm
Thank you Sean
Carol Luttschwager - January 18, 2022 12:18 am
Love these stories. Haven’t received any for several months. Hopefully you’re still writing.