How Is Egg Salad So Bad Sometimes?

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Laure Joliet)

The first time I ate egg salad was surprisingly late in life, when I was 16 or 17. The memory wouldn’t be noteworthy except that it was so exceptionally un-noteworthy. All I recall is that a glob of yellowish gray mush devoid of any flavor, or even salt and pepper, sat in front of me. So this is it, I thought. Years later, I’ve become obsessed with the versatility of salads like this — egg salad, tuna salad and the like. But really, how can something so good be so bad so often?

Every New Yorker has seen the who-knows-how-old tub of egg salad at delis across town. It’s often over mayonnaised (I know, I can’t believe I’m saying that either), under-salted, and lacking anything fresh like say, celery or (gasp) dill. It’s a rare day when I request the tuna salad, and in general I’m pretty wary of ordering it anywhere besides my own kitchen. As a kid, I used to labor over the tuna salad to the point where my mother stopped making it, as I’d insist it needed a smidge more celery or perhaps some grainy mustard.

This week, I was fortunate to dine at a beautiful Swedish restaurant in East Hampton, New York. With a sparse, but thoughtful menu, there were no more than four main choices for lunch. Along with several of my companions, I chose the Toast Skagen, a beautifully toasted slice of brioche topped with salad greens, shrimp salad and roe. With just the right amount of lemon and mayonnaise, the flavors were fresh and light — perfect for a day spent walking about in an 85 degree heat with a severe frizz advisory. What could be better for lunch?

(Image credit: Kate Gagnon)

Reminiscent of a shrimp or lobster roll, it was lighter and more…zesty? It got me thinking — how can I branch out and try delicious new recipes like this? One of my favorites is Deb Perelman’s egg salad — what are your favorites?