Egg salad and its culinary counterparts tuna and chicken simply reek of ladies’ luncheons and soda fountain sandwiches. Pimento and cheese once had similar associations, but now thanks to the same Southern machismo ethic that has established eating a Duke’s dripping white bread Vidalia onion sandwich over the kitchen sink virtually a rite of passage has now transcended such effete associations and often finds itself served in micro-breweries with an unassuming amber larger. Still and all, the South is nothing if not traditional, and egg salad perseveres as a staple at distaff functions and an essential at christenings, weddings and those inevitable funerals.
Egg salad in and of itself is a simple recipe, nothing more than chopped, cooked—usually boiled—eggs blended with a sauce or emulsion to make a spread, but as with most simple recipes, variations abound and additions are discussed, debated and occasionally disputed. For instance, olives seem to be a traditional addition throughout the nation, but most recipes from the South tend to include black olives whereas above the Mason-Dixon Line green olives with pim(i)ento stuffing is the general rule. Woody Allen trivialized egg salad in his 1966 feature film debut as the object of Phil Moskowitz’s search for the stolen recipe of the Grand Exalted High Majah of Raspur, giving heft to my argument that when it comes to egg salad people can work themselves into a froth over seemingly the most insignificant details, which puts food right up there with art and law.
Yes, use boiled eggs; though I’m certain some misguided if not to say unbalanced individuals actually do make egg salad with scrambled eggs, or horror of horrors compounded mangled omelets or even worse God help us please not quiche, boiled eggs are traditional for a good reason; don’t even think about it, just use boiled eggs and don’t over-cook them. I mash mine with a wide-tined fork and add good mayonnaise to texture. Adjust the amount to your own tastes; me, I like it a little on the dry/chunky side as opposed to the creamy/smooth. Of course I use black olives, usually canned pitted jumbo, but Kalamata give it a nice salty kick and the olive oil is a nice touch. Finely-chopped celery and green onion give egg salad a better texture, a dash of pepper vinegar or lemon juice gives it a little bite, and I like mine peppery, served on rye toast with a light Pilsner.