Will someone please explain our national fascination with macaroni salad? Is this a holdover from 1950â€™s Filipino-American fusion cooking? Were our mothers so bowled over by Betty Crocker (the brand, not a real person, did you know that?) that we churned out a salad that was fundamentally unsuitable to a hot and humid tropical country where mayonnaise spoils faster than you can properly say and spell salmonella? Donâ€™t get me wrong, I love macaroni salad. My mom made it for large gatherings with buffets laid out. I continued eating it at college cafeterias in the U.S. and later with terrific fried chicken that my sister used to and still makes. It just seems so odd that it would achieve such a vaunted position in our party food line-up in just the past few decades. According to my brief search for macaroni salad history, its earliest beginnings were in the United States in the 1950â€™sâ€¦
It was the quintessential low effort, high carbohydrate dish that busy mothers cravedâ€¦ boil up some macaroni and throw on some bottled mayonnaise, eggs, etc. Serve with a sliced ham or baloney (bologna?) sandwich and the kiddies were fueled until the next meal! This was progress. And its influence was so strong it crossed the Pacific Ocean and landed on Philippine shores just about the time we were moving into gated communities with cookie cutter houses and televisions tuned to I Love Lucy and I Dream of Genie. Whatever the reason, we had to apply the Filipino touch so the salad morphed into a sweeter form that some folks even believe could serve as a desertâ€¦
Here are my two versions of macaroni salad for the truly cooking impaired (in other words, I canâ€™t believe most of you canâ€™t do this without instructions). First, a more western-style macaroni salad. Boil some macaroni in SALTED water, drain and cool. Add some chopped celery, ham, or chopped boiled egg. Mix some Dijon mustard into lots of mayonnaise and mix into the macaroni. Season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve. Other things you can add are chopped mild onion, olives, dill, parsley, etc. Getting this right is all about balance and tasteâ€¦too much celery makes it overly cruncy, too much ham makes it too salty, etc. If you use homemade mayonnaise you will get a haute macaroni, silky smooth and noticeably yummier. Second, a more pinoy-style macaroni. Boil some macaroni in SALTED water, drain and cool. Add shredded chicken, drained pineapple chunks (yikes!) or raisins, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. I tried to think of other local variations but I shuddered at the thought. I will leave this extensive list to marketmanila readers to post in the comments section. What do you put in your macaroni salad?!?