Pearl, We Hardly Knew Ye

i never wantedThis is the column I never wanted to write.

Before I say anything else, I want to state that I am not a picky eater; nor do I have the palate of a preschooler.  But, the favorite food of most people is comfort food, or something from their childhood.  Just sayin’.

dewey's cake

Dewey’s delicious, delicious cake.  My birthday’s in TWO.WEEKS!!!

I’ve made no secret of the fact that my two favorite foods are heavily frosted birthday cake and potato salad.

But because I love tater salad so much, I have very strong opinions about it.  I don’t like it refrigerated. It absolutely has to be a waxy potato, like a red skin, or a Yukon gold.  don’t like celery, and mustard and pickle relish are evil abominations.4Because of having exacting standards for potato salad, there are very, very few store-bought or restaurant made varieties that I like.  I can really only think of four.

There was a deli in La Jolla named Kangaroo that made a version I enjoyed (now closed).  A restaurant in Elizabeth City named Copeland’s at which Petey and I ate at three times a week when we were first married (also closed).  A Greensboro sandwich shop Jam’s, who makes a lemon potato salad.  And, chain eatery Wingstop’s potato salad, called Pearl’s.  It’s full of big chunks of hard-cooked egg, and way too loose, but somehow still a favorite.


They sell a pretty mean Reuben, too.

Jam’s is still open, and so is Wingstop.

But, yesterday when I went into my local Wingstop for some Pearl’s, I was told they’d stopped selling it.discWhich was both a bummer and an opportunity.  An opportunity because I was still looking for a topic for this week’s column.  The same hand that slapped the potato salad-laden fork out of my mouth also handed me something about which to write.  I decided to do some online investigation to make Pearl’s at home.

The case of the missing potato salad.

So, I went all Nancy Drew and found three online clues.  The first was a scrap of a recipe on Pinterest and included honey mustard.  One was a recipe offered by an ‘insider’, that was a basic potato-onion-egg-mayo version.  And seven years ago, Wingstop put a video on YouTube showing the making of their honey mustard tater salad.  The honey mustard was part of their “secret sauce” but they offered nothing more as to its ingredients.wingstop spudTwo things I then knew for sure: the salad was made with russets, and it contained both mustard and relish, so I have to walk back that abomination thing, and the no mustard recipe was a fraud.

I then did some kitchen experimentation and came up with a close-ish approximation.  I’ve also sent a recipe request to Wingstop corporate and will follow up in another column if I hear back.

Pearl’s Wingding Potato Saladwingstop ps4 pounds russet potatoes cooked in boiling salted water until fork-tender

4 eggs, medium-hard cooked, peeled, and rough-chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

¼ cup sweet pickle relish

½ cup Dijon mustard

½ cup Trader Joe’s creamed honey

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

Salt & pepper to tastehoney dreWhen the potatoes are barely cool enough to handle, peel.  Cut all except one into cubes.  Chop reserved spud and put into dressing bowl and give it a smoosh until it’s chunky/mashed.  Add relish, onion, mustard, honey, mayo, and sour cream.  Stir together until well combined.  Season and reseason, if necessary.Add still warm potatoes and eggs.  Mix until everything’s coated.  Season, cover and refrigerate for an hour. Serves 6-8.

So, I’ve decided something.  When it comes to food, I’m going to stop assuming I know everything about my palate, and also that I know anything about everything else.  Standing around with my mouth wide open in shock is getting old, and it just makes me look dumb.gobsmackedThanks for your time.

Birthday Sweet

Who knew death row inmates were so enamored with Pizza Hutt?

I googled “Last Meals” and got 5.3 million returns.

Whether it’s a condemned prisoner, a celebrity interview question, or a parlor game, one’s choice of last meal fascinates.  Unfortunately, the only way to literally preplan your final feast involves either suicide (Hitler and Eva Braun had pasta), or execution (Ted Bundy had steak, eggs over easy, and hash browns).There are lists of the actual last meals of celebrities—not planned deaths, but spontaneous.  Some are mundane to the point of sadness (JFK: boiled eggs and toast, Jimi Hendrix: tuna sandwich).  Some possibly hints at the “why” of the death (Elvis: four scoops of ice cream and half a dozen cookies, James Gandolfini: lots of liquor, two orders of fried shrimp and a full plate of fatty goose liver). And some are their personalities on a plate (Princess Diana: Dover sole, and an asparagus omelet, Julia Child: French onion soup).  And some are just head scratchers; I never would have pegged John Lennon as a Reuben fan.

I’d honestly assumed he was a vegetarian…not a fellow corned beef hound.

In the convict category, there’s a whole lot of pizza, KFC, soda and ice cream.  It sounds like a ten-year-old planned the menu; which makes sense, if you think about it.  These guys are looking at the end of their life.  They want to be as far away from ‘the now’ as possible.  So, they go to their childhood, before it all went wrong.  The backgrounds and palates of convicted killers don’t normally run to fine dining and fancy, expensive ingredients.But the whole subject is a real bummer.  Under normal circumstances, my personality and outlook could give Shirley Temple diabetes.  So, I think a better and happier question that sheds even more light on a person is their birthday dinner.  It’s usually a combination of childhood favorites and flavors and foods discovered along the way.When I have food chats with folks, almost everybody smiles and has a menu already in mind, as well as the dessert (overwhelmingly it’s chocolate cake).

#1-They don’t care about the menu for their birthday dinner.

But if someone tells you they don’t care, or it doesn’t matter as long as they are celebrating with family, just smile and carefully back away.  These anomalies have a screw loose and are mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

My birthday is Friday, and my dinner of choice just screams spring and, “Call 911!”.  If I ate it more than once a year, it would probably stop my heart before long.Crispy-fried boneless chicken breast smothered in extra lemony Hollandaise, potato salad studded with lots of crispy bacon, and fat fresh asparagus steamed and drizzled with butter.My dessert is a large corner piece of Dewey’s cake with extra frosting.  And you’re welcome to a piece, but don’t be coming around looking for another corner, ‘cause it ain’t happening, and the request itself would very likely end a friendship.


This is the 2018 Birthday cake.  The frosting/cake ratio is approximately 1:1–a very good year.

Even Petey knows to tread lightly around my birthday cake.  My love for my spouse is so deep that sometimes I even offer him a corner.  Petey’s love is so deep that he usually turns it down.I know this all sounds really bad, but if you ask anyone that knows me well, they will tell you that this behavior is a true deviation of my normal personality.  I am normally the soul of generosity.

I would gladly take you to the airport and/or help you move.  I would honestly give you one of my kidneys if you needed one.  If you’re hungry I’ll feed you.

But if you take the last piece of my birthday cake, we’ll soon be talking about your last meal.Thanks for your time.