29 Jul 2012

Potato Salad and Ernest Hemingway

My reading one year whilst on holiday was 'Islands in the Stream' - by Ernest Hemingway.  I really can't remember anything about the storyline - I just remember I enjoyed reading it at the time and the thing that stuck out most for me in the book was Hemingways' descriptions of food.  In particular Potato Salad - and now, whenever I make it - it takes me right back to that book and that holiday.

Traditional Potato Salad
"I'll pass you up the rifle and get the hell back to those potatoes.  The boys like potato salad, don't they?  The way we fix it?"
"Sure.  Roger too.  Put in plenty of hard-boiled egg and onion."
"I'll keep the potatoes good and firm.  Here's the rifle."  (Islands in the Stream)

Hemingway used to say that he preferred writing when he was hungry because it was good discipline.  Whatever it was, I expect that it made his descriptions of food and drink more potent.

Certainly these are scattered throughout 'Islands in the Stream' and if you can read a book without craving a fresh onion sandwich or a cold gin-and-tonic, then you probably have a healthy immunity to your appetite.
French potato Salad - using shallots and white wine vinegar
There is something about salty sea air, warm sun and bracing surf that somehow makes lunch seem incomplete without potato salad.  Part of Hemingways' genius was in making such connections for those who read his stories.
Spanish potato salad (Ensaladilla) using a mixture of vegetables
adding olives and sherry vinegar
There are many different ways of preparing Potato Salad - but the one that suits my taste which has been perfected over the years is - the simpler the better.  Potatoes, Spring Onions, Hard Boiled Eggs and chopped Chives mixed together with Mayo and a little Salad Cream and sprinkled with Paprika.

The French add olive oil, mustard and shallots with thyme - the Spanish add vegetables, olive and sherry vinegar.

The secret is to chill it for a couple of hours before eating to let all the flavours meld together.

"Boys seem to be doing all right" Eddy said.  "We've got fish for dinner already."
"Sounds fine.  How's that potato salad?"
"It isn't cold yet Tom."
"Eddy you like to cook don't you."
"Damn right I like to cook.  I like going in a boat and I like to cook.  What I don't like is rows and fights and trouble." (Islands in the Stream)
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So there you have it - whenever I make potato salad I think of Ernest Hemingway - funny how the mind works isn't it?

(The first part of the book takes place in Bimini in the Bahamas - take a look at the video and see how fabulous it is)


  1. Well now I fancy eating potato salad! They all look very tasty - especially the middle one. We had to read 'A Farewell to Arms' for 'A' level and I didn't like it very much - that was many years ago - so I've never read any other Hemingway books. Perhaps I should try again:)

  2. I have only read a couple of his books but I think they are very 'macho' not sure I would enjoy them if I re-read them - but at least I have him to thank for my love of potato salad.

  3. I'm not a Hemingway fan but I'm always happy to eat potato salad!
    Flighty xx

  4. Haven't read any of Hemingway but I do love potato salad, especially with hard boiled eggs and onion, a recipe passed to me by a friend 30 years ago.
    Patricia x

    1. It sounds like you make it the same way I do - we don't have it all that often but when we do I really enjoy it.


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