Making macaroni salad that clings to the stomach is easy, but making a batch that ‘sticks to the ribs’ is a method that the Pennsylvania Dutch have mastered.
Although ingredients for this South Central Pennsylvania dish are relatively the same across kitchens in Lancaster and Huntingdon Counties, the tastiest way to make a full pound box of elbows is with Miracle Whip salad dressing– about two cups—ask any woman who has fed many kids with so little in food stamps.
There is a deli that sells macaroni salad on every block in New York City, but none of them make macaroni salad with Miracle Whip salad dressing and a can of Eagle Brand condensed milk, like the Dutch of Pennsylvania are known for. For years, I have suffered a bitter distaste for elbow macaroni and the large chunks of lazily chopped boiled egg so common in the white fluffy dishes found behind glass deli cases here in the Big Applesauce.
On Friday, I broke down and made my own. Sick of the mayonnaise ridden pudding that is so common in large cities, I called my three mothers for advice. It’s Sunday, and the entire pound is gone. I ate it all like a home-sick dog. I couldn’t stand going without good macaroni salad any longer. I was starving for something that would put me to sleep for an entire afternoon. It worked. How I longed for tiny, microscopic pieces of egg in my macaroni salad; not chopped egg, but boiled eggs shredded in a metal grinder, like is done in kitchens across Pennsylvania.
Peeling the eggs is the most time-consuming aspect of making macaroni salad. Eggs that are at least a week old come out of their shells like drunken pretty white girls at a red neck bar. One should boil eggs for two minutes and let them rest in the hot water for five more. Peel them ten minutes after they have cooled at room temperature. The shells come off with the simple slip of a thin membrane.
White Spanish onions are a necessity for making elbows that shove the digestive system, as is a spoonful of Gulden’s Mustard. A chopped dill pickle gives the dish a Jewish touch, but a half jar of India relish will do the trick of making it “kosher”.
A few shredded carrots add color and crunch. Salt and pepper are not necessary, but often make this miracle of the mountains of Pennsylvania worth watching as it is lifted from the table often before Grace is said.