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Potato Salad Tact

So I'm hosting a cookout after work today. Because I won't be home until 5:30 and the grill will be fired up at 6, when a friend asked to bring a side dish, I said YAY! She told me she'd bring the potato salad, and would drop it by the house before I left for work (that was an hour ago...yes, I'm chowing at work).

What I have is about 2 pounds of store bought potato salad...not the "German" style, but the kind that is potato, mayo (?) and mush.

I *need* to serve this tonight, and I don't want to offend the friend who brought it by dressing it up too much, do you know what I mean? I would like to cut it with green onions, chopped red bell pepper, celery, etc...but I'm afraid that that would say "your gift isn't up to my standards".

Is there a way to make it better without dissing the giver? Lots of black pepper? Some chives?

Thank you.

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  1. When a guest offers to bring something I expect it to be at least a little homemade, at least some effort used. I could've bought the item myself. I'm probably a meany, but heck yes I'd fix it up! Would'nt say a word about it after the original thanks, just do it. Enjoy the party!

    1. Could you split it in two bowls and dress one up with just some black pepper and chives (this would not be to noticeable perhaps and could be perceived as "garnish") and in the other bowl do something more elaborate with a bit of bell pepper and onions? I think it would be a mistake to be to elaborate with all of it but this way you can also argue that you thought added peppers would go so well with xyz so you thought you'd just add that into a bit if anyone fancied it.

      Another thing that I do (since I can't stand too much mush) is to slice or dice down extra boiled potatoes into the storebought salads which also hugely improves them in my opinion. That's not very noticeable either.

      1 Reply
      1. Put it in a serving dish, sprinkle a little paprika on it and remember that it's the thought that counts....


        ...and while everyone is being served, make a loud point of thanking the giver so no one thinks it was your idea.

        4 Replies
        1. re: DoobieWah

          I am with you on this idea, 100%.....

          1. re: DoobieWah

            Couldn't have said it better. Maybe this work friend has a lot going on/doesn't cook/loves the store bought stuff. It's the thought that counts and yes thank the giver.

            1. re: DoobieWah

              Thanking the giver publicly is one of my favorite methods. It makes it clear that it was not my creation/idea and makes me appear gracious. Then all you need to do is take a tiny amount.

              1. re: DoobieWah

                Yup! ONLY way to go!

                Chances are people know your cooking and your standards. They won't be confused about what happened when you offer your gratitude to her for supplying the potato salad.

                It isn't the last meal anyone there will have. It won't really spoil anything -- even tho you could do so much better. They'll enjoy the company and the conversation and be happy to accept your next invitation. ...at which time I"m betting you'll make the potato salad and tell her that it's kind that she offers but you've got everything covered.

              2. Let's see ... a friend asked if she could bring a side dish. You said yes and did not stipulate what she should bring or demand that what she brought meet your exact specifications. Open the container, stick a spoon in it, put it on the table and be quiet. If you must, put it in a different serving bowl but still stick a spoon in it, put it on the table and be quiet. If it gets eaten, it gets eaten. If it doesn't, it doesn't. If it offends your delicate sensibilities to serve store-bought potato salad and you feel like you have to announce that YOU had NOTHING to do with the potato salad that's your issue. If someone asks you who made the potato salad, say "(Friend) brought it" and leave it at that. No editorials, no disparagement. Remember, she asked, you accepted. Take it and be gracious.

                8 Replies
                1. re: MandalayVA

                  Of course I wouldn't demand a specific item. But I also wouldn't bring something store bought to someone's house....if I were bringing dessert, it wouldn't be a gallon of store brand ice cream. However, you're right...my bad...what's the line from Cool Hand Luke? What we have here is a failure to commun'cate.

                  1. re: MandalayVA

                    In other words, MANNERS. And understanding that food is not as important as PEOPLE. Nice comment, MandalayVA.

                    1. re: jmckee

                      Guys, seriously? Not that big a deal. Capital letters? If I weren't worried about manners, do you think I'd be asking advice about the issue? But I do appreciate your the shrift. :-)

                      1. re: pinehurst

                        Hey, until they enable HTML on here you're gonna have to deal with capital letters for emphasis. ;)

                    2. re: MandalayVA

                      Do I have to start putting smiley faces at the end of my posts again so people will know when I'm being clever and not terse?


                      1. re: DoobieWah

                        I'm afraid not to put a smiley face.

                        1. I really appreciate all your ideas....and I had never thought of added boiled potatoes for texture. Another option is chopping up the chive/green onion/pepper and putting it out in little bowls around the big dish as garnishes.

                          Doobie, yeah, I know...it's like the sweaters that auntie knitted us back in the day that were just....strange. But you say thank you and act gracious anyway. It is the thought.

                          PS bayoucook, totally with you on the 1st sentence of your post

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: pinehurst

                            friend "did you add stuff to my potato salad?"
                            me " Yeah, I decided to garnish it when I put it on the serving plate"

                            keep calling your alterations "garnish". Although, i'm tempted to think someone clueless enough to bring bought potato salad wouldn't notice the improvement anyway.

                            1. re: danna

                              btw, your friend sounds like a really nice , thoughtful person...just food-clueless...a very minor flaw in the grand scheme of things ;-)

                              1. re: danna

                                I was going to say, at our deli we put alternating diagonal rows on top of shredded carrot and shredded parsley, Then when you serve it, it gets mixed in.

                                1. re: coll

                                  Another flavour boosty thing to try might be to stir in a bit of acid, either lemon juice or white vinegar. Peps up creamy salads and leaves no telltale evidence :-).

                            2. I'm with Mandalay. You've asked for it, you got it, you have to serve it. Your friends will still like you even if they think you make crappy potato salad. If they don't, good riddance.

                              I understand your concern for their taste buds, though, especially since I hate potato salad. Why not make a pasta salad to supplement it? You can throw one together in seconds, and if you make it look tasty enough people might just go for that instead.

                              What would happen to me is that I'd make said macaroni salad and everyone would compliment me on the great potato salad. Now that ... that would truly be mortifying!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: overthinkit

                                I might make mac salad this weekend, just for home (because I love it, and it's better the next day).....nice idea. And another person mentioned, a lot of folks really love the store salad (hence the stores keep sellin' it). It's a Friday, it's a cookout, if the worst thing is myeh potato salad, it's a good day.

                                1. re: pinehurst

                                  True that! I've only tasted precious few, but never liked store-bought potato salad. We love our family recipe potato salad with Duke's or homemade mayo, chopped hard-boiled eggs,diced Claussen dills, lots of onion, and a little mustard - best with both Dijon and yellow. Yum.

                                  1. re: pinehurst

                                    That's a good point. People always bring the store-bought stuff to cookouts at my church, and it usually gets eaten.

                                2. I think the most tactful thing to do would be to put it in a nice bowl and serve it as is. But make sure you serve other stuff with the meal so that if people don't like it they can leave it and still have a good meal. That way everyone wins and no-one has to eat the salad unless they like it.

                                  And who knows, you may find your friend is very casual about it and considers it just to be "ordinary store bought" stuff and won't be offended if people don't rave over it. After all, maybe she was just trying to save you time and didn't consider it a gourmet addition to your cookout!

                                  1. My first thought was a relish tray with the big bowl in the middle and all of the little compartments around it full of brightly colored yummy mix ins.... and as was mentioned, "garnish" heavily. You can always pass it off as a presentation issue..... :)

                                    1. Nothing wrong with garnishing the potato salad with fresh chives.

                                      1. Stir in some lemon zest--it will cut that cloying blandness and it won't look different from the original.

                                        1. Lots of people eat store bought potato salad every day and very few die from it. Add me to the "be polite and serve it as is" camp. It's not the end of the world. If any of your "friends" abandon you because you served it, then who needs them?

                                          1. So, what happened, what did you do?

                                            1. Just curious, a supermarket deli makes potato salad the same way I do, right? Boil potatoes and add hard-cooked eggs, jarrred mayo, celery, onion, S&P...
                                              or do they use canned potatoes, dried egg, canned vegetables -- ?

                                              As for the OP's question, I'd be sure it was plated prettily and serve it, not change it.

                                              1. I would put in out there just the way it is,for a variety of reasons. Some people might actually like it, this is what she contributed and maybe she and her family like to eat it, and lastly, I don't think there is a thing on earth you can do to make it taste much better. My daughter brought some unopened containers of potato salad home from a company picnic. I added eggs, salt & pepper, pickles, onions, Miracle Whip, anything I could think of. I made it taste semi-edible but not good. In any of the potato salads I've tasted ,the potatoes weren't quite done and there's no way to heal that.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: MellieMag

                                                  Yes Mellie would somebody please explain why deli potato salad is always a little bit raw. And seriously who wants to eat raw potatoes in mayo? The pieces are tiny too and still raw!

                                                2. Hi all! Blue Room, the Market Basket (regional NH/MA supermarket) potato salad is small cubed/mashed potatoes, mayo/dressing, and salt. Not like you make it.

                                                  I ended up adding a tablespoon of chive, about a quarter cup of finely chopped celery, and black pepper. All went well, and we had a good time (hard not to do at a cookout...the dog always bums out til he's fed, though). Thank you all. Chowhounds rock!

                                                  1. I think it is okay to discreetly "garnish" store-bought potato salad. Your friend may not even know what was in it to begin with, it isn't like doctoring someone's homemade dish. Discretion is the key, I think. Or serve lots of margaritas and no one will care what they are eating.