Recent phone conversation between my mother and I:
Me: “What do you put in your macaroni salad?”
Mom: “Macaroni, chicken, relish…the sweet relish…”
Me: “I can’t get that here in Prague. They don’t sell that in the stores.”
Mom: “Uh-uh, then you can’t make it. It won’t taste good.”
Me: “What else do you add?”
Mom: “Pineapple, salt and pepper…:
Me: “Don’t you put carrots and celery too?”
Mom: “Oh yeah and raisins.”
Me: “I don’t like raisins in it.”
Mom: “Well, you still can’t make it, if you don’t have sweet relish. Love you, gotta go, am cooking.”
Sweet relish is not been something you find on the shelves of the grocery stores in Prague. Sauerkraut in two varieties: red or white cabbage: Yes! Jars and jars of pickles: Yes! Sweet relish: No!
I proceeded to make the salad without that coveted ingredient. How important could the sweet relish really be? The pineapples would add some sweetness to the dish and so would the mayonnaise. At least that’s what I thought to myself.
But, as usual Mother knew best. After letting the salad sit in the refrigerator, we tried some. It wasn’t the same, it was missing something and I knew exactly what that was.
Uggh… If I was going to save this Filipino macaroni salad, I would have to make the relish myself. All from scratch.
And here it is…
It wasn’t as tough as I thought. I turned on BBC news to keep me company and then worked on chopping the vegetables into teeny, tiny pieces. That was the most arduous task of the process. What followed afterwards, was simple, but it did take about 5 hours.
I immediately added the 4 tablespoons of the home-made relish to the salad. With my sturdy wooden mixing spoon, I stirred and stirred until all the ingredients were well combined.
I scooped some salad into a bowl and after tasting it, I immediately thought of my mother. She was right. If I was ever going to make this again, I couldn’t make it without including the sweet relish.
What makes mothers right all the time? It doesn’t matter whether I ask my mom about a big or small matter, she always seems to have the answer, the right answer and that bugs me. I get even more irritated when I disagree with her and she still comes out the winner.
Is that a part of motherhood that I will get to look forward to? One day, will I have all the right answers too? Will I possess the acumen to dish out the proper responses to my daughters’ endless queries? Well, at least I can tell them how to make a jar of sweet relish, when they find themselves in a country where it isn’t sold.
Sweet Relish (just in case you wanted to make some too)
4 cups diced cucumber (seeded and with the peels on)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1/4 cup salt
2 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
Chop all the vegetables into fine small pieces.
In a large bowl, mix the vegetables with the salt.
Then add cold water until it covers all the vegetables.
Let it sit for 2 hours.
Then in a pot big enough to boil the vegetables, add the sugar, vinegar, mustard and bay leaves.
Let the liquid come to a boil, then add the vegetables.
Bring the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 10 minutes.
Then place in a clean jar. If you are an expert with sterilizing and canning, you will know what to do. If not, ask your mother!
Recipe for macaroni salad can be found here: https://adventuresintheredkitchen.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/a-cool-salad/